Thirty-five Oxford college heads have appealed to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, for the guaranteed security of EU workers, in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union
An open letter from Oxford academics addressed concerns that academic research would ‘suffer enormous damage’ if foreign lecturers and tutors are forced to return to the Continent. It has also been claimed that many have already started to leave of their own volition.
Oxford Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson signed the letter, which read that her ‘EU colleagues are not reassured by a government which tells them that deportation is not going to happen but declines to convert that assurance into law.’
It stated that ‘some are already making plans to leave.’ This is likely due to an uncertainty felt for the future of EU academics.
The letter was published to coincide with a vote in the House of Commons on Article 50, which debated passing an amendment by the House of Lords to the bill. The Lords wanted to call for a ‘meaningful’ vote on the final Brexit deal, as well as demands for the Government to publish proposals for the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK.
Both amendments were rejected by a majority of 45.
Now, the PM is free to trigger Article 50 and begin the process to leave the EU. It was hoped that the letter would put pressure on Conservative MPs to accept the amendments, which were supported by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.
The rights of EU citizens have, however, been emphasised as a priority of Theresa May’s white paper. International trade secretary Liam Fox and Brexit secretary David Davis, however, have indicated that concrete agreements on EU citizens’ rights may not be reached until Brexit negotiations have been finalised.
Oxford’s open letter may have failed in its aims, but Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, affirmed remaining ‘open to collaboration’ within the wider higher education sector post-Brexit.
UoB student Cameron Brown, a 2nd year studying International Relations with Politics, said ‘Parliament has just proved that morality is not a factor in making decisions as, for me, this was not an issue that needed to be debated. It should have been guaranteed from the outset.’
‘Once again, Theresa May has shown a very Machiavellian mindset.’
The Prime Minister will adhere to her promise of triggering Article 50 by the end of March, as Downing Street have announced the date of the formal notification to be Wednesday 29th. It was thought that these plans may have been derailed by Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second Scottish Referendum.
Sophie Keefe, 2nd year UoB English student, said, ‘It’s really depressing that it was rejected; I’m astounded that protecting the rights of EU nationals wasn’t a foregone conclusion.’
‘It’s another instance of the government doing whatever the hell they want and pretending that it’s what the whole country asked of them. It’s dishonest and disingenuous.’
Sir Keir Starmer, Brexit Shadow Secretary, believes that EU citizens have been ‘left in limbo,’ with an uncertain future to follow.