People are not bargaining chips – that was the simple statement running through today’s mass lobby of Parliament calling on the government to guarantee the residence rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK.
Organised by the3million.org.uk, UNISON and New Europeans, the lobby set out to make clear to MPs the distress, fear and anguish caused to EU citizens in the UK.
From nurses to businesspeople, hundreds came together to demand that they not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations around the UK’s departure form the European Union.
A packed meeting in one of Westminster’s wood-lined committee rooms heard Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer stress the party’s commitment to be part of a cross-party initiative that promotes and supports “tolerance [and] openness, protecting and thanking EU citizens”.
The nation could not, he insisted, “be seen to be treating people with such disrespect”.
But he told the room that it is vital not to see today’s lobby as a one-off event, saying: “We need to keep making the case.”
UNISON assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie told the crowd not to be gloomy – that such a wonderful turn out was an indicator of the strength of the cause.
“We’re going to stand together to say this is not a country where we will be divided by political scheming,” he said.
“It’s a campaign that will not go away until people listen and treat all of us with dignity and respect.”