The leaders of three central London councils have called on Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit, to take urgent action to safeguard the rights of EU nationals living in the capital.
In a joint letter, the leaders of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Wandsworth councils ask for an explanation from the EU negotiator as to why no agreement has yet been reached on their status.
They state: “We were surprised and disappointed that a swift resolution of the issue was not reached over the summer.
“Based on the conversations we have with our resident EU nationals, your negotiating team’s delay in settling outstanding matters seems unnecessary.”
The letter also states Mr Barnier needs to demonstrate he is “taking a constructive approach and to reassure EU citizens living in London that they will continue to enjoy the lives that they have established for themselves here.”
The three boroughs led by Cllr Nickie Aiken (Westminster City Council), Cllr Elizabeth Campbell (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) and Cllr Ravi Govindia, (Wandsworth Borough Council) are collectively home to 80,000 EU nationals – equivalent to a town the size of Bath.
All three authorities are establishing residency and passport advisory services for EU nationals to offer further advice.
The council leaders’ letter to Mr Barnier concludes: “While we very much see them as ‘our’ citizens, they are legally yours. Having their rights confirmed as quickly as possible during the negotiations is their priority, not who wins or loses the finer points of the argument in negotiations.”
Full text of letter
Dear M Barnier
UK RESIDENCY RIGHTS OF EU CITIZENS
We write as Council Leaders responsible for providing local government services to residents of three central London boroughs. 80,000 nationals from EU countries other than the UK have chosen to make these boroughs their home. As their elected local representatives, we are writing to express our concern at the lack of progress on securing their rights to live and work here in London.
We consider EU nationals living in our boroughs as our citizens. Most come here to work and, through their work, they create important economic ties between businesses in London and other parts of the EU. Many of them are raising their children and contribute a great deal to our communities here. We are proud to serve them and it is our job to represent their interests. Therefore we are asking for these London families to be treated fairly. They should not have to wait for so long to have their residential status confirmed.
The initial exchange of letters between the UK and EU negotiating teams gave us grounds for hope that an early agreement would be sought by both sides on the status of EU citizens. Since then we have seen a position paper published by the UK Government on 26 June 2017 on “Safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU”. It represented an open and generous offer to EU citizens living in the UK, and came as a relief to many of our residents who had been concerned that they might have had to go back to live in their country of origin.
We were surprised and disappointed that a swift resolution of the issue was not reached over the summer. We have taken note of the joint technical note produced by your team on 31 August summarising the UK and EU positions. Based on the conversations we have with our resident EU nationals, your negotiating team’s delay in settling outstanding matters seems unnecessary.
We believe that you should be seeking to reassure EU citizens - as they would wish – by reaching agreement with the UK on their status, and we would be grateful if you could act swiftly to allay their concerns and provide them with the certainty that they seek.
We regard it as our responsibility and our duty to not only to make representations to both negotiating teams on behalf of EU citizens living in our boroughs, but also to keep them informed of the progress being made to secure their status. We are also establishing residency and passport advisory services for them, so that they know where they stand and when they will have a legal basis on which they can plan the rest of their lives.
We would be grateful if you could respond as soon as possible to explain why agreement has not yet been reached, to demonstrate that you are taking a constructive approach and to reassure EU citizens living in London that they will continue to enjoy the lives that they have established for themselves here.
While we very much see them as “our” citizens, they are legally yours. Having their rights confirmed as quickly as possible during the negotiations is their priority, not who wins or loses the finer points of the argument in negotiations.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, Leader, Westminster City Council
Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader, Wandsworth Borough Council