Originally published 4 July 2016.
Conservative leadership contender Theresa May has refused to guarantee the position of EU citizens currently living in the UK. Speaking on Sunday's BBC Peston on Sunday programme, she said only that this would have to be "factored into the negotiations for Brexit". Although most mnigration into the UK is from non-EU countries, roughly three million EU citizens are thought to be living in the UK at the moment.
Former Cheltenham Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood has said this uncertainty over their future poses a direct threat to Cheltenham businesses, schools, hospitals and families: "Cheltenham has such a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture and many people work alongside EU citizens, they teach our children and care for our sick and elderly as nurses, doctors and care workers and, of course, many of them have married UK citizens. I'm shocked that a candidate for leader of the Conservative Party - and therefore for Prime Minister - should send such an ambivalent message about this."
"After all, the status of EU citizens here will be down to the UK government if and when we leave the EU - not Brussels."
"This has stopped being an argument amongst politicians about theoretical possibilities" said Martin. "It has become something that affects our colleagues, our kids' teachers, the nurses who care for our relatives and members of families we know."
"Our leaders should send a clear message that the rights of EU citizens already living and working here will be respected. Apart from the human cost, it would do even greater damage to our economy, to our health and care sector and our schools if we send out the message that other Europeans might not be welcome in the UK. What company would relocate from elsewhere to the UK in that situation?"
"I would urge Cheltenham businesses and schools and families who might be affected by this to contact our Conservative MP as a matter of urgency and demand that he disowns Theresa May's position, campaigns for other EU citizens to stay and refuses to back Theresa May as a leadership candidate."
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has already said " “The Liberal Democrats will not stand by while our communities are divided by uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome of any negotiations with Europe around Brexit, EU citizens who have made Britain their home must be allowed to stay." http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/02/tim-farron-eu-nationals-in-uk-lib-dems