City leaders call for backing to write to Brexit secretary

The leader of the city council is set to write to the Brexit Secretary '“ raising concerns over the Capital's jobs market and the status of European nationals if the UK leaves the EU with the Government's proposed deal

Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 9:08 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 9:14 am

Edinburgh is home to more than 39,000 non-UK EU nationals, more than any other city in Scotland.

With worries over whether Theresa May’s draft deal will gain the support of MPs, the SNP city council leader has tabled a motion for Thursday’s full council meeting which will also set out the city’s preference of remaining in the European Union.

If approved by councillors, Cllr Adam McVey will write to Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay “expressing the council’s position regarding the UK’s relationship with the EU, setting out concerns about labour supply if Brexit occurs in the form proposed by the UK Government, opposing any costs charged to EU nationals through the settled and pre-settled status applications”.

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Edinburgh is home to more than 39,000 non-UK EU nationals - more than any other city in Scotland.

The motion also sets out support for a People’s Vote on any Brexit agreement.

Cllr McVey said: “Scotland’s capital voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the European Union, with 74.4 per cent opting for remain.

“A People’s Vote would give us the opportunity to reaffirm our support for our EU citizenship. We’re also endorsing the First Minister’s call for the transition period to be extended to avoid a cliff-edge scenario when the UK leaves the EU. Ultimately, whatever transpires with Brexit, we have to do whatever we can to make sure Edinburgh is in the strongest possible position and we send a clear message of support for  our citizens who hold EU nationalities.”

If the motion is agreed, the council will publicly state that remaining in the European Union is “the best option for the social and economic wellbeing of the city”.

Conservatives have called on the SNP-Labour coalition to focus on providing services to the people of Edinburgh and labelled the motion “political grandstanding”.

Conservative group chairman. Cllr Jason Rust, said: “The council administration could barely get a shaky coalition agreement cobbled together so I don’t think anyone will seriously envisage that it has the least idea about future international trade deals or agreement with the European Union.

“Let’s not forget the administration’s own working group specifically dedicated to looking at the impact of Brexit on the council workforce and on council projects and service delivery did not even meet for a year.”

Labour backbencher Cllr Scott Arthur welcomed discussions about Brexit, but lambasted the council leader and his SNP colleagues for “playing politics”.

He said: “It’s very clear that there’s little support for the Brexit deal that the remaining members of the Tory Government are willing to support. That means that MPs must use all the levers of the UK parliament to improve  or stop the deal.”

Green co-convenor Cllr Chas Booth, backed Cllr McVey’s motion, believing the authority should set out its stance on Brexit.

He said: “The last week has seen the Brexit shambles plumb new depths as UK Government and the Tory party show how utterly clueless they are.

“Here in Edinburgh, almost one in 10 residents is an EU national and they deserve far better of the country they have chosen to settle in than to be treated in this shameful fashion. That is why the council needs to send out a firm message about Edinburgh being a welcoming, open and internationally-connected city.”