A parliamentary private secretary to Scottish secretary David Mundell has lost his job for proposing an amendment that would seek to protect the citizens rights of expats.
More than 60 Conservatives are understood to have signed an amendment tabled by Alberto Costa calling for a separate agreement with the European Union to protect the rights of expats even if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Labour is also supporting the amendment and Costa said it would be a ‘farce’ if the government did not back down.
He told the Press Association his amendment, which already has support from 130 MPs ranging from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to Tory arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, would give the prime minister a mandate to push for a change with her fellow EU leaders.
Aides to Costa claim that he was fired, but Downing Street claim that he had effectively resigned from his unpaid government role as it was convention members of the administration should not table amendments to government motions.
This is despite the home secretary Sajid Javid appearing to state that the government backs his amendment.
He told the Home Affairs Select Committee there was ‘nothing’ wrong Costa’s proposals.
Asked by SNP committee member Stuart McDonald whether the government was now supporting them, he replied: ‘Yes, what do you mean now? When was the government not supporting it? When did you hear that?’
When McDonald said ‘Yesterday’, Javid asked: ‘From who?’
The SNP MP replied: ‘The prime minister.’
A visibly nonplussed Home Secretary replied: ‘Did you? Right… Oh… OK. I’m perfectly happy with the amendment.
‘What Mr Costa is doing, which I think is perfectly correct, is trying to find more ways for parliament to give that reassurance.’
Independent Group MP Anna Soubry tweeted: ‘Alberto has shown great courage in tabling this amendment I was proud to support. Government has accepted it but then sacked him – which is nasty and petty. Pretty much says everything about how badly broken our politics are.’
The PM’s spokesman later stressed that May had not voiced opposition to the aims of Costa’s amendment, but had cautioned that the EU did not believe it had the authority to seal such a treaty.
‘The prime minister never said that she would oppose it,’ said the spokesman. ‘What the prime minister has pointed out was the challenges on the EU side.’
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Costa’s removal ‘prolongs the anxiety and uncertainty that over five million people have faced for two and a half years’.
The 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK and the 1.5 million Britons living on the continent ‘don’t deserve to be treated as a political football kicked between the Home Office and Number 10’, said Abbott.