Campaigners representing the three million European Union citizens living in the UK have called on the government not to use people as “bargaining chips” in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
A letter will be handed to Theresa May at Downing Street on Monday afternoon calling for the Prime Minister to publicly guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, in addition to the 1.2 million British citizens living in Europe.
The 3 million campaign says that since June’s referendum result people from other EU nations living in the UK do “not feeling welcome anymore” and are left feeling “anxiety, loss and rejection”.
Meanwhile, a report by think tank British Future has said that EU nationals already living in the UK when Article 50 is triggered “should be guaranteed the right to settle here permanently”.
The report calls on the government to assure the 2.8 million EU citizens in the UK can stay and should be offered permanent residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British nationals.
Labour MP Gisela Stuart, a Leave campaigner and chair of the British Future panel, said: “Britain should make clear at the start of the Brexit negotiations that EU citizens already here before that date (the triggering of Article 50) can stay.
“This would send a clear signal about the kind of country the UK will be after Brexit and the relationship we want with Europe.”
In a letter to be handed to Downing Street today, campaigners say: “We are calling on you to take the first step and unilaterally guarantee the right of EU citizens currently living lawfully in the UK to remain in the UK after Brexit this side of Christmas.
“We are joined in this call by the leading organisations representing British citizens in Europe who believe this is the necessary first step before negotiation starts.
“This would have the double benefit of appeasing the rising anxiety of the 3 million EU citizens living here and 1.2 million British citizens in Europe, both sides rejecting being treated as bargaining chips in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
“In the Christmas spirit, we call on you to make a public statement guaranteeing those rights now and organise a meeting with all parties in the New Year.
“Please not that we fully support the campaigns to preserve the rights of British citizens in Europe as both sides are saying ‘we are not bargaining chips, we are people’.”
Campaigners from the 3 million are demanding “the unconditional preservation of our rights”.
A statement on the group’s website reads: “Following the referendum on 23 June 2016 a shockwave has been going through the communities of non-British EU citizens who have built their lives in this country without thinking that one day, their rights to live, to work, to study, to raise a family, to run a business or to retire would be questioned.”
The organisation is described as apolitical.
Since the launch of the campaign, MPs have been showing their support by taking a photograph holding the 3 million pledge and posting it on social media.
Last week a House of Commons vote led to an overwhelming majority of MPs agreeing with the government that Article 50 must be triggered by the end of March next year.
The debate came as the Supreme Court considers whether the government needs Parliament’s permission to trigger Article 50.
MPs also called on the government to publish a ‘plan’ for Brexit before the UK starts the process of quitting the EU.