To be honest there was never really any genuine doubt about it. But now it is official. The 37,000 residents of Hammersmith and Fulham who are citizens of other EU member states will be very welcome to stay after Brexit.
The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU resolves:
“to provide reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union law and based on past life choices, where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the specified date.”
The “specified date” is the day the UK leaves the EU.
The deal refers to “Union citizens who in accordance with Union law legally reside in the UK, and UK nationals who in accordance with Union law legally reside in an EU27 Member State by the specified date, as well as their family members”. It goes well beyond the right to remain – it also include strong and detailed safeguards against any discrimination.
It will protect the current rights of spouses, registered partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and a person in a durable relationship, who do not yet live in the same State as the Union citizen or the United Kingdom national, to join them in the future:
“Irrespective of their nationality, the following categories of family members who were not residing in the host State on the specified date will be entitled to join a Union citizen or UK national right holder after the specified date for the life time of the right holder, on the same conditions as under current Union law:
a. all family members as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2004/38/EC, provided they were related to the right holder on the specified date and they continue to be so related at the point they wish to join the right holder; and
b. children born, or legally adopted, after the specified date, whether inside or outside the host State, where:
i. the child is born to, or legally adopted by, parents who are both protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or where one parent is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and the other is a national of the host State;
or ii. the child is born to, or legally adopted by, a parent who is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and who has sole or joint custody of the child under the applicable family law of an EU27 Member State or the UK and without prejudging the normal operation of that law, in particular as regards the best interests of the child.”
So will all the scaremongering now cease?
After the referendum Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader stated:
“We will do everything we can to ensure all of the borough’s EU residents feel as welcome today, and each day thereafter, as they did yesterday.”
So why hasn’t the welcomed the breakthrough – as the Leader of Wandsworth Council has.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“I welcome the apparent U-turn from Theresa May on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and British citizens living in the EU. I will pore over the details of this over the coming days because there needs to be clear and unambiguous reassurance to the three million EU citizens in Britain – one million of whom are Londoners – that they can stay, and that they’ll have automatic full rights.”
Pretty disgraceful for two reasons. First of all the “apparent U-turn” implied that Theresa May had previously be opposed to allowing citizens of other EU states to remain. Secondly the Mayor implies that the agreement fails to give “clear and unambiguous reassurance” – what is his basis for saying that? After the “coming days” he should put up or shut up. Let him specify how the agreement could have been any more “clear and unambiguous” – or otherwise give it “clear and unambiguous” welcome.
What about the borough’s MPs?
Greg Hands, the Minister for London and MP for Chelsea and Fulham is pretty clear:
17% of my Chelsea & Fulham constituency is EU nationals. More than 11,000 people wanting uncertainty lifted. This is very good news. pic.twitter.com/ykLCJfmGbr
— Greg Hands (@GregHands) December 8, 2017
But what about Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith? Only on Thursday he tweeted:
Just asked Leader of the House for a statement on post-Brexit rights of EU nationals. It is outrageous that 27,000 people in @LBHF alone are still in limbo. Many, especially Irish citizens, have lived and worked here for decades.
— Andy Slaughter (@hammersmithandy) December 7, 2017
“Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
When are we going to have a statement on the rights of EU nationals, particularly Irish citizens, many of whom have lived in this country for decades? Even if the Government cannot sort out anything else on EU withdrawal, please may we have a statement on this matter, which is causing anxiety to millions of people?
I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman seek that reassurance. The Prime Minister has made it very clear on numerous occasions, including in her Florence speech, that all EU citizens will be able to carry on living their lives as before. We have committed to incorporating our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law.”
Then a few hours later we had the deal published. Why hasn’t Mr Slaughter welcomed it and taken the chance to spread the reassuring news to his constituents?
Could it be that some Labour politicians actually don’t really welcome the news as before the official clarification they felt they exploit the anxieties for political gain?
Another paradox is that while the EU itself feels the protections for their citizens living here after Brexit are completely solid some of the EU’s keenest supporters feel unable to accept this.
Etre plus royaliste que le roi?