Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who co-chaired the campaign to leave the EU, has been accused of hypocrisy after she called on politicians “to be humane” and guarantee the rights of 3.5 million European citizens living in the UK.
The politician, who is now chairing an inquiry into the practicalities of protecting the rights of foreign workers, said it was critical that Britain was a “welcoming country” in the wake of the Brexit vote.
But her comments led to an angry response from the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, who said her campaign had focused on reducing migrant numbers.
“Gisela Stuart happily put her name to a campaign which repeatedly whipped up anti-immigrant feeling, which has contributed to an increase of hate crimes against Europeans, so it’s pretty shameful that she’s now claiming to be worried about EU citizens here in the UK,” Farron said.
“It is like the arsonist turning round and saying they are surprised that a fire took hold.”
Stuart, who is chairing the inquiry for the centre-left thinktank British Future, said she would like the government to promise that anyone who was in the country before the referendum on 23 June would be allowed to stay.
Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4, she said she didn’t want to set out a cut-off date before the actual inquiry, but said the day of the ballot was “very significant” and said people should not be “left in limbo”.
Ministers have indicated that while they would be prepared to let EU nationals already in the UK stay, they want to secure a reciprocal commitment from other member states concerning the 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU.
Stuart added: “I think it would be good for the British government to take the initiative, say that we will protect EU citizens’ rights, and then expect the same for UK citizens in the rest of the EU to be similarly protected.
“One of the duties of politicians is to be humane and when we deal with people’s lives, I think to show that we are open, we are a welcoming country, that we simply decided to leave a political institution called the European Union, that doesn’t mean we are ignoring people’s rights.”
This article was written by Anushka Asthana Political editor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 16th August 2016 15.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010