Council leader welcomes Brexit breakthrough on EU citizens rights

Published: 8 December 2017

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia has welcomed today’s breakthrough in Brexit talks which have guaranteed the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British citizens living and working in Europe.

Since the start of the Brexit negotiations Cllr Govindia has been pressing both sides to reach agreement on this crucial issue.

Wandsworth is home to 30,000 EU nationals and their contribution to local culture, diversity and enterprise is a key component towards making the Brighter Borough the success story it has become.

Earlier this year Cllr Govindia wrote to both the Prime Minister and the head of the EU negotiating team Msr Barnier calling on both sides to make rapid progress on securing and protecting the rights of Wandsworth’s European residents.

And just last week he escorted Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis on a tour of the Nine Elms regeneration zone to highlight the pivotal role EU citizens are playing in revitalising this part of central London.

Cllr Govindia said today: “I am delighted that this landmark agreement has been reached and that it fully secures the rights of our 30,000 residents who have moved from Europe and chosen Wandsworth as their home.

“Guaranteeing their rights and protecting their interests has been a key aim of the council ever since the Brexit negotiations began.

“From speaking to many we knew they were concerned about what Brexit would mean for them and their families. I am so pleased that this issue has been resolved and that they are most welcome  to remain living in Wandsworth and continue to play an important role in the cultural and economic well-being of our borough., London and the whole UK.

“We value what they are doing and we want them to stay and thrive within our communities.”

The 2011 census showed that 11 per cent of the borough’s residents hold an EU passport. The largest EU population is Polish, followed by French, Italian, German and Spanish.

Cllr Govindia wrote to Theresa May in July stating: “As the leader of a highly diverse and culturally rich inner London borough I want to impress upon you the significant impact the Brexit negotiations are having upon local communities here.  The need to reassure the European Union nationals resident in Wandsworth about their future in the UK is a high priority for me and the Council.

“European residents make up a significant proportion of our local population and they are a part of our community right across the whole borough. They have enriched and continue to enrich our communities in more ways than I could hope to capture in this letter. They contribute greatly to public services, our vitality and to delivering the huge regeneration of our borough.

“The current uncertainly EU residents face is unfair and debilitating. While I have no doubt they will be given the right to remain, they require absolute clarity now so they can plan their lives and make informed decisions in the interests of their families, careers and businesses. As someone who came to the UK from Uganda in 1972, I recall the decisiveness with which our Party in government acted and once that decision was made how much of a relief it was to my family and many others like us.”  

In September he wrote to Msr Barnier pressing him to achieve a breakthrough.

He wrote: "We consider EU nationals living in our boroughs as our citizens. Most come here to work and, through their work, they create important economic ties between businesses in London and other parts of the EU.  Many of them are raising their children and contribute a great deal to our communities here.  We are proud to serve them and it is our job to represent their interests. Therefore we asking for these London families to be  treated fairly.  They should not have to wait for so long to have their residential status confirmed."