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EU nationals express ‘utter desperation’ following MPs rejection of Lords amendment

Vote against amendment to guarantee rights of EU citizens prompts wave of concern and anger among Europeans living in the UK who feel they are being 'treated like a pawn in a game of chess'

May Bulman
Monday 13 March 2017 23:04 GMT
Commons votes down two amendments from Lords over Brexit Bill

EU nationals in the UK have expressed their “utter desperation” after MPs rejected an amendment by the Lords to unilaterally guarantee their rights before the Brexit negotiations begin.

Hundreds of EU citizens took to social media to express their “disgust” following the vote in the Commons, criticising the Government for leaving them riddled with uncertainty and angry at being treated like "bargaining chips".

The vote on Monday saw a Lords amendment that aimed to force the Government to publish proposals for guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals before Article 50 is invoked defeated by 335-287 votes – a majority of 48.

Nicolas Hatton, founder of The3Million, a grassroots organisation lobbying for the rights of EU citizens, said he felt “utter desperation” following the vote, stating that the Lords' amendment had been a “last chance” for EU nationals to be “treated like human beings”.

“Despite our numerous calls to be treated like human beings, MPs have voted down the amendment to Article 50 providing EU citizens some sort of guarantees,” said Mr Hatton in a statement.

Theresa May set for EU withdrawal talks after Brexit Bill clears Lords

“This was the last chance and I struggle to find words to express my utter desperation that EU citizens will now be used by the Government as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiation. A sad day in Parliament!“

Following the vote, EU nationals flooded to The3Million Facebook page — a forum frequently used by EU citizens to share concerns in the face of Brexit — to express anxiety and anger at the outcome.

And prior to the vote, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer told the Commons protecting the rights of EU nationals was a “matter of principle”, adding: “Are we prepared to use one set of people - those that are here - as a bargaining chip, to get the rights for people in the EU? That is exactly what it is.

Brexit Secretary David Davis predicted however that the UK would reach a “swift” agreement with the EU countries over the one million UK nationals living in member states and the 3.2 million EU citizens living in Britain.

It comes after it was revealed that more than 135,000 EU nationals have applied to live in Britain permanently in just six months, inundating the Home Office with bids for residency as applicants have been plunged into what has been branded a “nightmare” bureaucratic process of filling in a 85-page form at a cost of £65.

EU citizens must now prove they have been living and working in the UK for the past five years, providing documents for every occasion they have left the UK in that period, while those who have not been working must reportedly show they took out comprehensive health insurance — a requirement that was little known until recently.

After drawing up the amendment last week, peers warned of the “devastating consequences” facing public services and the economy without EU workers – as well as the fear many feel about their future.

Update: This article was amended on 15 March

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