Labour MP Gisela Stuart is a “liar” for voting against the recommendations of an inquiry into EU migrant rights that she chaired, according to a fellow panel member.
In the Commons on Wednesday night, Stuart voted down an amendment that would have guaranteed the right of EU citizens currently living in the UK to remain after Brexit.
Yet fewer than two months ago, Stuart called for the UK to make that exact promise in order to set an example to other EU countries ahead of the Brexit negotiations.
Another MP who was part of the “Inquiry into securing the status of EEA+ nationals in the UK” – Tory Suella Fernandes - also voted against the amendment to the Brexit Bill in the Commons on Wednesday.
Stuart, herself a migrant from Germany, told Huff Post UK that she still supported the principle of securing rights for EU migrants, but Wednesday night’s measure was nothing more than a “wrecking amendment” designed to scupper the Prime Minister’s ability to trigger Brexit.
Speaking to Huff Post UK’s Commons People podcast, another member of the inquiry, Professor Steve Peers of the University of Essex, did not hold back in his criticism of both Stuart and Fernandes.
He said: “All of us on the inquiry which Gisela chaired agreed that EU migrants’ rights should be protected.
“We went into some detail about it, so that anyone who was here before Article 50 was triggered should be in exactly the same situation as they were before hand.
“The amendment wasn’t perfect but it went a long way towards doing that, but then they voted against something which they supported when they were part of the inquiry.”
He added: “If you believe that and if you strongly argue that and then you vote against it I think it’s fair to call someone a liar.”
When asked what he thought of the Government’s position that guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights in this country before others make the same pledge regarding UK expats, Peers said: “Some people do make that argument and if they’re consistent in making that argument you can’t call them hypocrites or liars, but the argument that Gisela Stuart made and Suella Fernandes made, and all of us in the inquiry made, is that we shouldn’t wait for a reciprocal deal, the best thing to do is to aim for one but in the mean time to guarantee EU citizens’ rights unilaterally.
He added: “In both of those cases they said one thing and then did exactly the opposite.”
Speaking this afternoon to Huff Post UK, Stuart reaffirmed her support for guaranteeing migrants’ rights.
She said: “The amendment had nothing to do with the British Futures report.
“I voted against all the amendments as every single one was a wrecking amendment.”
Stuart said that the time to press for a guarantee of migrant rights was after the Article 50 leaving process had been triggered, not last night when “everybody was hanging amendments on the Bill like a Christmas Tree.”
The issue of EU citizens’ rights in the UK post-Brexit flared up in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan leading the call for a guarantee of their status to be made.
Theresa May’s government has been consistent in refusing to guarantee the status of migrants who came to the UK legally, and in October International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the rights of EU citizens was “one of our main cards” in the Brexit negotiations.
Stuart joined forces with identity and integration think-tank British Future to lead an inquiry into the issue, which was launched in August 2016.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 when the project was announced, Stuart said: “I think it would be good for the British government to take the initiative, say that we will protect EU citizens’ rights, and then expect the same for UK citizens in the rest of the EU to be similarly protected.
“One of the duties of politicians is to be humane and when we deal with people’s lives, I think to show that we are open, we are a welcoming country, that we simply decided to leave a political institution called the European Union, that doesn’t mean we are ignoring people’s rights.”
Her view did not change when the report was published in December, and in the foreword to the document Stuart wrote: “Defining the rights and status of these groups should be the first priority of this government in their negotiations with other EU member states. There are no domestic party political differences on this subject, as successive parliamentary debates have shown.
“It would set the right tone in the subsequent negotiations if the UK reached out and confirmed the status and rights of EU citizens in the UK in a manner which gave a clear indication of how we would expect EU countries to respond to their UK citizens.”
Professor Peer told Commons People that he would not take part in any further work for the inquiry while Stuart and Fernandes were involved.
He said: “I sat on it in the assumption that they meant what they said, that all of us on the Remain or the Leave side could work together to agree on this one thing – which we all agreed was important, but then at the end of it, having signed up to it, they then vote against it and I don’t think you can trust someone once they’ve shown you that they can’t be trusted.”
Suella Fernandes has yet to reply to requests for a comment.