A VILLAGE’S campaign backing the rights of EU nationals living in their community after Brexit has attracted support from all over the world.
More than 50 families from Pencaitland, which has a population of under 2,000, have supporting the EU Are Not Alone campaign launched this month by concerned resident Jim Fraser.
He was inspired to take action after speaking to a French neighbour about the uncertainty the vote to leave the EU was having on her family’s rights to live and work in the UK.
A petition has gathered 200 signatures in the village and a poster has been produced proudly naming all the families in Pencaitland who support the rights of EU nationals living in their community and across the UK.
And the campaign, which comes in the week the UK Parliament gave the go-ahead to Prime Minister Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and start the process of leaving the European Union, has been backed by people from as far afield as America, France and London after it was shared on social media site Facebook.
“This is not about politics, it is about compassion,” said self-employed Mr Fraser. “It is important to us to put an arm around our neighbours and people facing this uncertainty to let them know we support them and are with them.”
He added: “The day after the Brexit vote, my wife and I spoke in shock to our French neighbour, Stefanie Pryde, about it. She didn’t know then, and still doesn’t know now – nearly nine months later – what exactly is going to happen.
“Even more importantly, neither does her wee girl. Government MPs have been talking about using them as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations, and that just seems wrong.”
The EU Are Not Alone Facebook page has a statement of concern on behalf of the families who have signed the petition.
It states that ordinary people, like the residents of Pencaitland are concerned and support their friends and neighbours who are EU nationals not born in the UK.
Stefanie said she was overwhelmed by the support. She told the Courier: “I have lived here for 21 years and my children are 20 and 14 and are British. It is a very worrying time because I do not know what might happen.
“The fact so many people in my own village, where I know a number of families who are also affected, have come together is overwhelming. We are very grateful for their support.”
The UK Government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying it is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent.
Shamin Akhtar, an East Lothian councillor for the area who lives in the village and supports the appeal, said: “Our county has a proud track record of tolerance and acceptance from people of all backgrounds and nationalities. And what we see in Pencaitland is exactly that: a local community showing their support to fellow EU citizens.”
Ralph Averbuch, chairman of Pencaitland Community Council, who is also a supporter, said: “There are significant numbers of people [from the EU] who have come to live, work and have families here.
“[The intent is] to show our community that we value their contribution and want their right to remain to be secured, whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations.”
Mr Fraser added: “Some may say this is just a pebble in the ocean but if this is the response in just our wee village, imagine what it would be across the country? If we can come together then so should everyone.”
To sign the petition, find it on Facebook under ‘EU Are Not Alone’.