Londoners are proud of their links with the rest of Europe and want to keep them.
That was the message Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, brought to Brussels on Tuesday ahead of the mayoral election campaign later this year.
Speaking outside the European Commission, Sadiq Khan said:
“I’ve had a good day here in Brussels, meeting some of the top politicians in the European Union – the key message from them is that they are really keen to see London continue to play a role in Europe.”
The London mayor met among others with European Parliament President David Sassoli to discuss the plight of the up to 1.4m British citizens in the EU and the 3.6m EU citizens in the UK whose rights are still not fully protected.
“Over one million EU citizens live in London. Ensuring citizens’ rights are protected remains a key priority for the European Parliament,” David Sassoli said after the meeting.
The Brussels Times asked Roger Casale, secretary general and CEO of civil rights group New Europeans to comment on Khans visit in Brussels. Casale is also a former Labour MP and colleague of Khan from the time they were MPs with neighbouring constituencies in London.
“It’s great news that the mayor is reaching out to Brussels – EU is a union of values and Londoners still feel very much part of that union. Sadiq Khan has been a champion of EU citizens through the EU Londoners outreach project and the emphasis on citizens’ rights is very welcome.”
“It’s understandable that the mayor should be asking for associate EU citizenship for British people who want to maintain their ties with Europe. At New Europeans, we believe that the best way to protect EU Londoners and Britons already living in Europe is by issuing an EU Green Card.
“The Green Card would give EU citizens a physical proof of status and restore free movement rights to UK citizens resident in the EU.” New European will be briefing all mayoral candidates on the initiative over the next six weeks.
When Londoners go to vote in the mayoral elections which will take place on 7 May, EU citizens will still have the vote, despite Brexit. New Europeans is organising a series of hustings meetings with the mayoral candidates specifically designed for EU citizens to promote participation.
Meanwhile, some EU member states, including France and Germany have already stripped British citizens of their voting rights in municipal elections, despite guarantees that nothing would change during the transition period.
“This reflects an asymmetric situation,” says Casale. “EU citizens in the UK are still EU citizens after Brexit but British citizens in EU member states lost automatically their rights to vote in municipal elections even though we are still in the transition period when everything was supposed to stay the same.”