An emergency protest to secure the rights of EU citizens fell on deaf ears on Monday when MPs rejected a House of Lords amendment.
An anti-Brexit protest in Parliament Square on Monday evening sent ‘a clear message that the government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK’. The protest hosted major speakers including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and NUS President Malia Bouattia.
Supported by many organisations including Right to Remain, the Migrants’ Rights Network and the NUS International Students’ Campaign, the protest saw hundreds take to the streets to show solidarity for migrants and attempted to block the government’s decision to remove the rights of EU workers.
However, the protest proved unsuccessful in altering the viewpoint of government.
Labour peers had initially called for an amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to “bring forward proposals within three months of triggering Brexit talks to ensure the rights of EU citizens continue.” However, MPs later rejected the amendment proposal by a majority of 335 to 287.
PM Theresa May is now expected to trigger Article 50 – the formal process of leaving the European Union – by the end of March.
Supporters were undeterred and determined to make a stand in the complicated Brexit fight.
Stop Brexit: Campaigners take to the streets
Protester Ulrika Schmidt told Roar: “I am an EU migrant who came here 28 years ago. I made my home here… and now suddenly I feel unwanted. It makes me very upset and very furious. It isn’t just me, it’s three million of us… I almost broke down in tears.”
Ranging in all ages and nationalities, protesters were keen to make their voices heard. Figures stated by the Evening Standard suggest around 3.2 million EU citizens live in the UK, meaning serious displacement if rights are removed.
“The protest is a stepping stone…” says John Baker, 75, a retired college EFL teacher, “It is critically important that we build the move this year. The government can only get away with blaming immigrants for so much. We’re fighting back against austerity and racism at the same time.”
Indeed, the vitriol towards the actions of the British government appears to run rife, with one protester, Andrew Waller stating, “To cause so much distress to families is completely unethical.”
Whilst Monday’s protest did not achieve its original aims, it is safe to say that those who are fighting for the rights of EU citizens will not go away quietly.
Additional reporting and photography by Cathy Wang.