A Labour motion in support of EU migrants in the UK, which won the backing of Boris Johnson, has passed comfortably in the Commons.
The shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, called on Conservatives to vote with Labour on the motion, which asked the government to “commit today that EU nationals currently living in the UK shall have the right to remain”. The motion passed by 245 votes to two after the government abstained. Burnham said it would send a strong message to EU migrants and ramp up the pressure on Theresa May. The home secretary has so far refused to guarantee that EU nationals will have full rights to remain in the UK.
May has previously said the status of EU migrants was an issue for Brexit negotiations, and rights of UK citizens living in Europe also needed to be guaranteed first.
Johnson, who was heckled in the Commons as he stood to speak, said he wanted to “set on record that the Vote Leave campaign gave exactly this reassurance to people living and working here, and it is very disappointing this should be called into question. “It is absolutely right to issue the strongest possible reassurance to EU nationals in this country, not just for moral or humanitarian reasons but for very strong economic reasons too,” he said. “They are welcome, they are necessary, and they are a crucial part of our society and I will be passionately supporting this motion tonight.”
John Redwood, a leading Eurosceptic, expressed hope that Labour’s motion “would not be opposed”, though the opposition day debate and vote is non-binding and has no effect on government policy
Burnham, whose wife is Dutch, said the issue would “directly affect the lives of millions of people living in this country”. He said: “To throw any doubt over their right to remain here is to undermine family life, the stability of our public services, our economy and our society. But sadly it is what the home secretary has done.” Burnham said any post-Brexit immigration rush to Britain to secure rights to remain could be avoided if it was made clear that the qualifier would be to have been resident before 23 June.