UCL News


UCL statement on yesterday's Article 50 vote

9 February 2017

Dear colleagues and students, I am alert to the fact that the government bill, which will allow Article 50 to be triggered, passed through the House of Commons yesterday, without any amendments being accepted.


One important amendment attempted to insist that, post-Brexit, the government give permanent residency to all EU citizens currently living in the UK, but this was sadly defeated by 332 votes to 290 in a parliamentary vote. I am aware through social media and email that many of our EU staff and students have been very worried by this outcome.

However, it has subsequently become clear that Conservative MPs received reassurances about the future residency rights of EU citizens in the form of a letter from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, in which she accepts that European citizens already resident in the UK make a vital contribution to our society. 

She goes on to promise that "nothing will change for EU citizens, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU without parliament's approval". 

It would seem that the content of this letter reassured Conservative MPs - such that sufficient numbers decided not to rebel and vote for the amendment - on the understanding that the future rights of EU citizens in the UK would be dealt with by other mechanisms and that the government was committed to this at the earliest possible opportunity. 

They were, of course, also under extreme pressure from the government whips to pass the article 50 bill without any further delay.

While this isn't an ideal outcome, it does for the first time (since the Prime Minister's earlier reassurances in her Brexit speech) signal how the government intends to proceed on this very key issue, and it does provide some degree of reassurance and offer hope that this will be resolved as a top priority.

I hope this message goes some way to reassuring all EU staff and students that you have a very positive future here at UCL.  Your right to remain in the UK post-Brexit is my number one top priority in our interactions with government. 

I believe that we are slowly, but surely, winning that argument and I promise that we will keep up that political pressure until this issue is finally and formally resolved.  

Yesterday's rejection of the amendment was clearly disappointing, but it also wasn't the final word. We will continue to support all of our EU staff and students until this argument is won. 

With best wishes,

Professor Michael Arthur
UCL President & Provost