LONDON: Hundreds of EU citizens living in Britain rallied outside parliament on Monday as the House of Lords began debating a bill that will empower Prime Minister Theresa May to start Brexit negotiations.
Waving flags from various EU countries and holding up signs reading “I Am Not a Bargaining Chip”, the protesters called for guarantees on their post-Brexit status.
“Stop Brexit, Brexit is Racist!”, the protesters chanted, before some of them entered the parliament building to make their point directly to MPs.
“I will never ask for the British passport. I feel Spanish,” said Araceli Rodriguez, a social worker and grandmother who has been in Britain for 33 years.
“This uncertainty about our future amounts to bullying and I won’t surrender to that,” she said, adding that she had decided to retire to Spain due to last year’s EU referendum result.
“It’s not worth staying in a country that doesn’t want you,” she said.
Agnes Baudur, a French woman in her 60s said she had been living in Britain for 31 years.
“I’m married to a British man and I’m worried about what happens later because clearly I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stay,” she said.
“I hoped to be able to continue living here but I’m worried now,” she said.
Britain voted by 52 percent in favour of leaving the European Union and May has said she will formally notify the EU of Britain’s decision by the end of March to kickstart departure negotiations.
Mass immigration from eastern and southern Europe was a key issue in the referendum campaign.
The question of what will happen to the estimated three million non-British EU nationals living in Britain will be crucial in the negotiations.
May has said their status will depend on a deal with other EU countries for the status of roughly 900,000 British citizens living elsewhere in the EU.
But a manifesto signed by the campaigners protesting on Monday refuted that.
“We reject the notion that no guarantees can be given until the European Union offers the same guarantees to British citizens living in Europe.
“It’s important their rights are secured too — but the UK voted to leave the EU, so the onus is on our government to take the lead and resolve the issue,” it read. -AFP