Brexit: Citizens' rights campaigners to greet Theresa May in Florence

Campaigners plan to hold protests in Florence on Friday in support of citizens’ rights as UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in the city to give a key speech on Brexit.

Theresa May | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 Sep 2017

New Europeans, a Europe-wide organisation which champions free movement and EU citizenship rights, is organising a vigil at the site of the former British Consulate and a silent march in the city centre to protest at May’s “failure to give immediate, comprehensive, unilateral guarantees” to EU27 citizens and their families in the UK following last year’s Brexit vote.

May is in Florence on Friday to spell out how she thinks the stalled Brexit negotiations should proceed.

According to a report on the FT on Wednesday, she will offer to fill a post-Brexit EU budget hole of about €20bn in an attempt to meet EU demands for the UK to settle its divorce bill.


It is reported she hopes this will allow the two sides to move to a second stage of talks on a future trade relationship between the EU and UK.

Speaking ahead of the rally, Roger Casale, founder and CEO of New Europeans, told this website, “We ask that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU are respected.”

Casale, a UK Labour MP from 1997-2005, went on, “That means that the EU and the UK should stop negotiating with people’s lives and legislate the guarantees these citizens need right now. No government has the right to play with people’s future and treat them as a commodity that can be traded.”

Security at the venue where May is due to deliver the speech will be heightened and there are reports that the British Embassy has been told it cannot announce the venue where she will be making her speech. One possibility is the Scuola Maresciallo Carabinieri, but this is not yet official.

The rally is expected to be attended by many retired British people living in Florence, some of whom are in their 80s or 90s. 

According to Casale, who will be in the city for the rally, it will also include  many younger British people who have made Italy their home under the EU’s freedom of movement rights.

Casale said, “New Europeans has informed the authorities that this is a peaceful and silent protest and called for the event to be policed appropriately.”

He commented, “There is nothing for the police to worry about. It is we the citizens of Europe that need to be worried. We represent the mainstream but we are caught up in a freak show called Brexit. Whatever happens with Brexit, we need all the rights we had previously to be guaranteed for all EU citizens in the UK and British in Europe. 

“If these rights are not guaranteed families will be broken, the old, sick and the disabled and their carers will not be adequately protected. Not protecting these amounts to the violation of our most basic human rights such as family life, safety, fair treatment and security.”


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