Candlelit vigil for citizens' rights outside European Parliament as UK exits EU

The vigil is planned to coincide with a “silent” march and similar vigil in central London on Friday, where campaigners say they will make the case for the protection of citizens' rights post-Brexit.
credit: Flickr

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 Jan 2020

Campaign groups say they want to “remind those watching as Britain leaves the EU that many of the citizens' rights issues are still unresolved.”

Roger Casale, of the New Europeans group, said, “Brexit is not an invitation to compromise the rights of the 5 million. The silent procession will be our way of showing that the rights EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU are not yet fully guaranteed.”

People around the UK and in Europe will also be asked to light a candle and “to think about the rights of #the5million.”


This is a reference to the 1.5m Britons in Europe and 3.5m EU citizens in the UK, many of whom say they still fear for their future after Brexit.

In Brussels at around midday on Friday outside the European parliament scores of people will each hold up signs spelling out the words: “Don’t make citizens pay the price of  Brexit.”

Casale explained, “At exactly the same time we will holding up the same signs at the Millicent Fawcett statue at Parliament Square. We will combine this with a call for people to light a candle in the evening to symbolise the rights of the 5 million which should never be extinguished.”

British MEPs have spent last week and this week clearing their desks at their offices in Strasbourg and Brussels for the last time. The Union Jack will be lowered from outside the three main EU institutions - Parliament, Commission and Council, on Friday.

“The silent procession will be our way of showing that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU are not yet fully guaranteed” Roger Casale, New Europeans

Casale added, “This Friday is an historic day for Britain and for Europe. We do not want to let it pass, including in Brussels, without reminding those watching that the rights of #the5million must never be extinguished.”

“For all those who can't be with us on Friday, they are asked to light a candle at 11pm for #the5million and for all the British people and the generation to come who will lose their rights because of Brexit.”

“By doing so you will help give meaning and hope to an occasion which for many of us will also be filled with anger, disappointment and sadness.”

The UK will leave the EU at midnight on Friday.

MEPs, meanwhile, are set to approve the Withdrawal Agreement in a vote at 6pm on Wednesday.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to participate in the debate with political group leaders that will precede the vote.

The vote comes after the completion of the ratification process in the UK and the vote by the constitutional affairs committee last week.

To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and UK needs to be approved by the European Parliament by a simple majority of votes cast before being subject to a final vote (by qualified majority) in the Council later this week.

A Parliament spokesman said, “After the vote, Parliament’s President David Sassoli will make a statement to the plenary, following which UK MEPs and group leaders will be invited to mark this moment in a ceremony in the Yehudi Menuhin area.”

The Socialists are also holding a ceremony in Parliament on Wednesday “in honour of the hard work of UK Labour MEPs for more than 45 years in the European Parliament and their significant contribution to making peoples’ lives better all across Europe.”

Richard Corbett and Theresa Griffin will be speaking on behalf of UK Labour MEPs alongside S&D leader, Iratxe García Pérez, and David Sassoli.

There will also be contributions from Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and PES President, Sergei Stanishev.

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