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Brexit: 325 Tory MPs fail to turn up for House of Commons vote to guarantee EU nationals the right to remain in UK

Labour's Andy Burnham proposed a motion calling for an urgent committment to protect EU nationals in Britain

Published 07/07/2016

Tory leadership candidates have been urged to guarantee that EU citizens can stay in the UK post-Brexit
Tory leadership candidates have been urged to guarantee that EU citizens can stay in the UK post-Brexit

The Government has refused to support a motion passed in the House of Commons calling for EU nationals to be guaranteed the right remain in Britain following the vote for Brexit.

A total of 325 Tories failed to turn up for Wednesday's debate, which saw 245 MPs demand protection for European citizens to just two opponents from the Ulster Unionist Party.

Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, was among those voicing his support for the Labour motion alongside the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats Green Party, Plaid Cymru and others.

Boris Johnson led a small contingent of Conservative rebels demanding the “strongest possible reassurance” to be given, following Theresa May’s refusal to publicly rule out deportations.

The former London Mayor claimed the Leave campaign had promised the status of European citizens already living and working in the UK would be protected but acknowledged people’s uncertainty and fear.

“I think it is absolutely right to issue the strongest possible reassurance to EU nationals in this country, not just for moral or humanitarian reasons, but for very, very sound economic reasons as well,” Mr Johnson said.

“They are welcome, they are necessary; they are a vital part of our society.”

He was among five Tories, including Zac Goldsmith, Philip Hollobone, Richard Fuller and Dr Tania Mathias to support Labour’s motion in Parliament on Wednesday.

It was proposed by shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, who hailed the vote’s success on Twitter and said the Government would be unable to retreat.

Mr Burnham told the Commons the three million EU nationals living in the UK should not “be used as bargaining chips in negotiations on the UK’s exit” from the union and must be given the right to remain.

The Labour MP hit out at the Home Secretary, who is currently the favourite in the Tory leadership contest, for “muddying the water” after last month’s referendum.

“One could only speculate that she made these comments in a bid to woo the grassroots of the Tory Party in her current situation,” Mr Burnham said.

He suggested backdating the status guarantee to 23 June and called for British citizenship to be offered to EU nationals working in the NHS or public services.

Ms May has faced fierce criticism over her refusal to give firm assurances that EU citizens living in the UK will be allowed to stay, having suggested the issue will play a part in negotiations with Brussels.

Ministers have suggested it would be unwise to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK until a similar guarantee is in place for British people living abroad in EU countries.

There have also been suggestions that a guarantee would provoke an influx of European immigration before the split from Brussels is complete.

James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, rejected the accusation that the Government was treating EU citizens as “bargaining chips” but said the Government was unable to support Labour's motion.

“In the approach the Government takes and the agreements we make, we will never treat EU citizens as pawns in some kind of cynical game of negotiation chess,” he told MPs.

“Any decision to pre-empt our future negotiations would risk undermining our ability to secure those arrangements and protect the interests of EU nationals and British nationals alike and to get the best outcomes for both.”

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