This article was first published on the South London Press on 11 September 2016.
Our amazing capital city is home to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. That’s part of what gives London its strength, energy and dynamism.
Citizens of other European countries contribute so much to London. 57,000 work in our NHS. Indeed, one in every ten registered doctors in our country is a citizen of an EU country. European students bring expertise and funding to our universities.
EU citizens both work hard in often unforgiving jobs, and set up businesses which employ British people. They are our neighbours and friends, our workmates and partners.
London voted strongly to remain a member of the European Union. But Britain as a whole voted to leave – and that has put the status of EU nationals already living here under serious threat. The best part of a million Londoners, who have made their lives here and contributed to this city, are now facing the spectre of possible removal from the UK if they do not meet harsh new immigration criteria.
This shouldn’t be the case. During the referendum campaign, Vote Leave’s leading lights like Boris Johnson repeatedly promised that “there will be no change for EU citizens currently lawfully resident in the UK” after a Brexit.
Clearly, one of the new government’s first acts should have been to fulfil this promise and categorically state that the right to remain in Britain for EU citizens currently resident here is non-negotiable. Yet shamefully, they have refused to do so.
This is a plain and simple betrayal of a community who find themselves newly vulnerable and insecure in Britain. Leaving them in limbo is both morally wrong and practically stupid. These are human beings, and guaranteeing their right to remain in the UK is a simple human right. And because of their vital work in sectors like health, driving them away would leave vital public services teetering on the brink.
If the government is unwilling to do the decent thing, we must force it to do so. That’s why I have set up a petition through Vote Leave Watch, the organisation I chair, calling on the government to guarantee the right of EU citizens currently living here to remain in Britain. Thousands have already signed – but we need more if we are to put pressure on the government. So if you want to keep London the great and thriving city it is today, visit VoteLeaveWatch.org.uk/eu-nationals-petition and sign our petition today.