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1ST LEAD EU citizens, trade unions rally in London for post-Brexit rights By Bill Smith, dpa

Europe
13.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - Scores of EU citizens backed by trade unions and other groups gathered outside British parliament on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to protect EU citizens‘ post-Brexit rights in Britain - and those of Brits on mainland Europe - ahead of a rally in central London.

The organizers, led by The 3 Million group, said they were "not asking for special treatment" for EU citizens.

"We came to Britain, a country we love, knowing that certain guarantees were in place," Nicolas Hatton, founding director of The 3 Million, said ahead of the event.

"Now, following Brexit, those guarantees could be removed, despite the fact that the British government promised this wouldn‘t happen," Hatton said.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the British parliament before the lobbying, some carrying EU flags with the message, "I am not a bargaining chip," and others posing with giant letters spelling "This is our home."

Dominic Grieve, a pro-EU lawmaker from Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Conservatives, was among those who addressed the protesters at a meeting near parliament.

The 3 Million said it expected some 5,000 people to gather in Trafalgar Square in central London for the rally, scheduled to begin at 6 pm (1700 GMT).

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who represents the opposition Labour party, was scheduled to speak.

Khan has previously warned that London, where a large majority voted to remain in the EU, must not "pull up the drawbridge and close our doors to the skilled workforce our economy needs to thrive."

Ahead of the "day of action," the organizers issued an open letter to the British government and the European Union, backed by businesses, public sector organizations, trade unions, universities and charities supporting its campaign.

The letter urged Britain and the EU to reach a separate agreement on citizens‘ rights "so people are protected even if there is no deal [on Brexit]."

May‘s immigration minister said he was aware of the concerns behind the EU citizens‘ protest.

The government had been "clear that we want EU citizens in the UK to stay and have made protecting their rights a top priority," Brandon Lewis wrote in Wednesday‘s Times newspaper.

Britain wants a reciprocal deal that protects more than one million British citizens resident in other EU nations, he said, adding that the government is "confident of making further progress during the next round of negotiations."

"So as European citizens make their voices heard in London today, I would like to once again send the message that the government recognizes how vital you are to this country," Lewis wrote.

British business groups expressed alarm last week after The Guardian published a leaked draft of a post-Brexit plan for Britain to limit EU citizens without specialist skills to a maximum of two years working in the country, and suggesting passport checks on all EU citizens entering the country.

Speaking in parliament, May did not say whether or not the document reflected her government‘s current thinking, but she said people who voted for Brexit in last year‘s referendum wanted tougher controls on immigration.

 

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