Pandemic has led to shift towards welcoming more EU citizens just as free movement is cut off

EU citizens in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster, lobbying MPs over post-Brexit rights in the UK. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

EU citizens in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster, lobbying MPs over post-Brexit rights in the UK. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

New polling has shown that the coronavirus pandemic has led to the British public becoming more sympathetic towards welcoming EU citizens to work and live here - just as freedom of movement is being cut off as part of Brexit.

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Across the UK, 63% of people agree that we will need more EU citizens to live and work here as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while two thirds of Scots say they would welcome more EU citizens to make their home in the UK in these circumstances.

A total of 68% of people in the UK and 71% of those polled in Scotland say they are more sympathetic to EU citizens living in the UK since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

The polling, commissioned by new pro-European group eu+me, has led to calls for a “rapid rethink” ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period which would see the end of free movement.

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eu+me Director Fergus Mutch said: “These figures sink the claims made by the UK Government that people want to see an end to free movement.

“The coronavirus pandemic has changed so much about how people see our place in the world, and our relationship with our closest neighbours.

“The UK’s economy has taken a hammering in the past few months. If we want to give ourselves the best chance of rebuilding society in the wake of the pandemic then welcoming people with the right skills from the EU to live and work here is absolutely critical.

“EU citizens are our friends, our family and our colleagues. They hold together our NHS and care sector, they are integral to the success of key industries, they exchange knowledge, ideas and drive progress in our universities and we depend on them heavily in the agriculture and hospitality sectors.

“Erecting a £700 million border does nothing but impede recovery, and diminishes our place in the world.

“It’s time for a rapid rethink and for the UK government to preserve the benefits of free movement for all our sakes.”

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