SNP MEP Alyn Smith has authored a letter co-signed by 24 European Parliament colleagues demanding that the rights of European citizens are protected if a disastrous no-deal Brexit scenario was to occur.

The letter, sent last Thursday, was addressed to European Council President Donald Tusk, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, EU Commission President Jean Claude Junker and the European Parliament’s chief representative on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt.

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Calling for the EU to ring-fence citizen’s rights so that they will have clarity on what they will face in the event that the UK crashes out of the bloc without an agreement, Smith’s letter goes on to read: “Following the rejection by the House of Commons of the UK Government’s deal on the Withdrawal Agreement and the future relationship with the EU, it is of crucial importance that action is taken swiftly to calm the very real fears of many EU citizens across the continent.

“It is unacceptable that our EU citizens have been subject to such uncertainty so long and where we fully recognise the failure is on the UK side, we now need the European Union to live up to its promises given that it has the capacity to do so.”

Smith goes on to call for the Council to “enshrine the rights of EU nationals – including their existing freedom of movement rights – in a legally binding agreement as an EU-wide solution, rather than rely on more piecemeal national legislation for each individual member state which can be adjusted or overturned at any moment”.

In a statement accompanying the letter, Smith said that it was “sad indeed that we have reached this day where we now cannot wait any longer,” and that “the only person not aware of the clock ticking is the woman who started the countdown in the first place, Theresa May”.

He went on: “But for all those people living and working across the continent, they have already spent far too long living in uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for them, and we now call on the EU to do what it can to lay their fears to rest.”

Smith added: “It should not be that we are calling for the EU to act unilaterally – the UK Government could have made this a priority but they didn’t. But now we feel that there is no other option than asking the other member states to do what our own Government has refused to do.

“Just addressing the citizens’ rights part of the Brexit negotiations is not ideal but right now, anything that can be salvaged is worth trying for.”