Today MPs – especially those on the government benches – have an opportunity to right a wrong, and guarantee EU citizens living and working in the UK the right to remain.
This should not be a problematic vote for Conservative MPs. It is what the Prime Minister claims she wants, yet she and her MPs have voted against it at every opportunity. As with defending our rights at work, Theresa May talks a good game but has never delivered (apart from diluting our rights, that is). EU citizens, our friends, our neighbours and – in some cases – partners and parents are being used as bargaining chips by the Prime Minister. She is acting as if their lives are only worth their value at the negotiating table.
To do so is disgraceful, runs contrary to every promise made during the referendum campaign and offends the basic decency of the people of the UK.
It also damages our public services, and the impact of this is already being seen. Today it was reported that a poll, conducted for Channel 4’s Dispatches, shows that the NHS could lose 25,000 nurses and doctors. Two out of every five EU citizens working in the NHS are thinking about leaving in the next five years, which would blow an immense hole in our health service. Added to an existing nursing shortage, the decline in nursing students following the axing of the NHS bursary and an already underfunded health service – it’s easy to see how the loss of these vital public servants will pan out.
Last week I wrote to all MPs backing EU citizens right to remain in the UK. I told them about the 67,000 UNISON members who are EU citizens working in public services, strongly urrged them to support the Lords amendment which guarantees the right to remain and to do all they can to convince the Government to change course.
Later today we will see whether MPs and the government have listened. Later today, we will see if Theresa May has kept her word to the country, and all of those who are crying out for EU citizens to be able to stay.