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European Parliament needs to lead by example on EU nationals

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has raised the plight of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU in Brussels, saying that these rights must be agreed now before the rest of the Brexit negotiations


He called for an 'unilateral act of generosity' from the EU to shame the UK Government into action.

Speaking after the hearing organised jointly by the Civil Liberties, Employment and Petitions Committees, Alyn emphasised:

"This was a useful meeting but people need action, not words.  The rights of citizens across the EU and in the UK could be agreed now, it is only political intransigence holding things back.  

"I fully agree, it is the UK, and the Tories in particular, who are the cause of the uncertainty, but if the other European nations are really looking for progress on this then it is open to them to unilaterally and unconditionally guarantee the rights of UK nationals in their countries.  That will, as well as reassuring millions of people, really change the weather on what I fear could become a protracted discussion and people need answers now."

"I was glad to hear that people feel more welcome in Scotland, we have worked hard to make sure that this is the case but we certainly cannot be complacent.  People are feeling anxious in their daily lives now, and we need to rise to that challenge.”
Speaking during the hearing Alyn said:

"My own thanks and welcomes to the petitioners and experts – it’s good experts do have an audience in some political institutions. 

"You’re very welcome and you’ve set us a challenge; like your testimony today and others, I’m receiving messages on a daily basis that break my heart. 

"This is not a dry, academic exercise. This is real lives of real people. 

"We’ve been set a challenge and colleagues, we need to rise to that. I’m not sure we have thus far. I don’t think the European Union has served the rights of our citizens as well as we need to do. 

"There’s been intransigence on a number of parts domestically but we need to step up. 

"I’d also urge colleagues, before we get lost in the minutiae of this, to remember that there is a very lively dynamic within the UK. There are a number of us within the UK who still oppose Brexit – I’m coming from Scotland but there are others across the UK. It is the view of the Scottish Government, Parliament and 48% of those who participated within the EU referendum that the best Brexit is no Brexit.  I won’t be approving and voting for any resolution in this House unless we see a lot of changes but I don’t think there’s a good way to cut out your own heart.  So remember that dynamic within the UK; Brexit is not inevitable, this is not fixed, this is built on sand. 

"In terms of what we need to do and the questions I think we need to answer is that ‘is the EU a club of states or is it a union of peoples?’  Thus far we’ve seen a lot of ‘club of states’ and I don’t think the citizens have been as represented as they need to be. 

"What we need to change the weather on this is a unilateral act of generosity. Citizens’ rights are the top priority of the UK Government, the Scottish government, the EU side – great. Let’s see the unilateral act of generosity that will actually move things forward. On past record of Theresa May as Home Secretary and indeed as Prime Minister, I don’t think we’re going to see that from the UK Government. 

"If we agree that that act of generosity is in the interest of our citizens, surely the call should come from our parliament for that unilateral act of generosity to guarantee the rights of UK nationals across the EU. 

"Now. Set a date. Find a way to do it. 

"That will put, I hope, intolerable pressure on the UK Government to change its tone, to change its rhetoric, and to match that ambition and generosity. 

"So, there is a very lively debate on this and I absolutely concur that we should suspend the principle of ‘nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed’. This is too important. Let’s do this first. I think we can do this first. 
"There’s lots of legal stuff to be worked out, of course, but I think we’re up to it. We’ve got the experts. What we need is the political will. I don’t think we’ve seen the political will from the Member State governments thus far. Surely it’s up to the European Parliament to be that voice."