POLITICS

New Calls To Protect EU Citizens' Brexit Rights As Number Of Europeans Working In Parliament Revealed

Nearly 200 Commons and Lords staff facing uncertainty

14/04/2017 00:01 BST | Updated 14/04/2017 11:05 BST
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Ministers are facing fresh calls to protect the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens as new figures revealed that 195 European nationals work in the UK Parliament.

In answer to Freedom of Information requests, the House of Commons said that it employs 137 EU nationals (including Irish citizens), while the House of Lords said it employed 58.

In total, some 5.7% of the 2,795 members of staff who work in Parliament - passholders ranging from kitchen staff to policy advisers and researchers - are citizens of the European Union. A further 144 are neither British nor EU citizens.

The Liberal Democrats said that the figure showed the “hypocrisy” of those MPs and peers who rely on EU citizens to cook, clean and maintain their workplace but are not prepared to guarantee them full rights when the UK quits the EU.

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The Houses of Parliament

Around three million EU nationals – one in 20 of the British population - are estimated to be living in the UK and many have been concerned for their future since the referendum of 2016 backed Brexit.

In the Commons the figures are:

Commons
House of Commons staff who are passholders

In the House of Lords, the proportion is even higher:

Lords
House of Lords staff who are passholders

Theresa May refused cross-party calls last month to award unilateral rights to those living in the UK once the country has finally left the European Union in 2019.

The Prime Minister has insisted that she wants to make the issue a priority in talks with her 27 fellow EU leaders, but has been accused of using them as a “bargaining chip” to get a good deal for the 1.2 million Britons living as ex-pats on the Continent.

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Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk

The new figures, in answer to an FoI request by the Liberal Democrats, give a citizenship breakdown of the 2,795 members of staff who work in Parliament.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “MPs who voted for Brexit seem happy to have doors opened for them and be waited on in restaurants in the Palace of Westminster by EU staff.

“Yet they are effectively saying to staff ‘you might have worked here all your adult life, but at any given moment we might send you packing if we are unable to use you as bargaining chips.’ That is disgraceful.”

Caroline Pidgeon, Lib Dem London Assembly member, told HuffPost UK: “Every MP or peer who fails to recognise the importance of EU workers should take a very careful look at their own workplace.  

“From the cleaning of their offices through to the serving of food and drink, it is EU citizens who are playing a key role in the daily running of Parliament.  

“It is simply hypocritical for any MP to vote against EU citizens being guaranteed the right to remain in the UK, and then spend the rest of the evening in a Commons’ bar staffed by EU citizens.

“MPs and Peers who fail to guarantee the status of EU citizens are creating unnecessary uncertainty and stress for many families around the UK.  They are also undermining the effective running of a large number of businesses and public bodies, including Parliament itself.”

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Lib Dem London spokeswoman Caroline Pidgeon

Many Commons and Lords staff with EU nationality have privately expressed worries about their status in recent months.

Tory peer and former MP Viscount Hailsham, who urged ministers to rethink,  revealed in March that he had been approached by one member of the Commons staff.

“One of the waitresses there whom I have known for years came up to me and said, ‘What is going to happen to me when Brexit takes place?’ She was born in France, but she has worked in the United Kingdom and been in the House of Commons for many years.”

The UK Government points out that the EU will start to clarify its own negotiating position later this month after the 27 states decide their timetable and overall strategy.

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Brexit Secretary David Davis

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU) said: “EU nationals make a vital contribution to our economy and our society, and that’s why we want to reach an early agreement on the rights of UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK.

“We welcome the fact that our European partners are also prioritising this and will be seeking the earliest possible agreement on this issue.”

Ministers claim that several countries have already indicated privately that they want a speedy resolution to the issue, but some Tory MPs suspect that Germany and the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are themselves seeking to use it as a ‘card’ in the talks.

EU nationals have in recent months demonstrated outside Parliament to demand an end to the uncertainty.

A lobby group ‘the3million.org.uk’ has been created to keep up the pressure on the Government.