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Nicola Sturgeon to address French parliament

Paris - PA

Nicola Sturgeon to address French parliament

Nicola Sturgeon will tell members of the French Parliament she will “stick up” for EU nationals living in Scotland during her Paris visit today.

The First Minister is on the second day of her visit to France, which included a meeting with French European Affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau.

Today she will open a new Scottish Government office in Paris before addressing members of the Assemblée Nationale, the lower house in the French Parliament.

Sturgeon is expected to tell members of the foreign affairs committee that she “will always stick up for” EU nationals in Scotland, which include 7,000 French citizens.

“In recent months we have lobbied successfully to ensure EU citizens would not have to pay a fee to obtain settled status in the UK. And we will always make it clear that EU citizens are welcome,” she will say.

“In fact in the coming months, we plan to step up our efforts to encourage EU citizens to stay in Scotland.”

On why she does not support the deal Theresa May has agreed with the UK, she will say: “For me, this is one of the saddest parts of Brexit. The UK Government is proclaiming the end of free movement as a victory – instead, it is a self-defeating measure. It removes opportunity from millions of people.

“It is an approach which is especially damaging to Scotland. Without freedom of movement there is a danger that our population will start to decline. We could face workforce shortages in rural areas, in our universities, in our care and health services. European nationals are not only very welcome in Scotland. They are crucial to our well-being.

“All of this is down to the red lines that the UK Government has chosen to draw. Given the existence of those red lines, I understand why the European Union believes that the deal agreed in November is the best which could be achieved. And I appreciate that many people in France and across the EU would like the UK to just get on with it.

“But no government of Scotland which has the interests of this and future generations at heart could possibly support the current deal.”

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March, whether an exit agreement is in place or not. After that, EU nationals will have to apply for “settled status” if they want to stay in the country, even if they have lived in the UK for decades.

A Home Office system for this has been piloted after Prime Minister Theresa May said she was committed to ensuring EU citizens could stay in the UK and access services.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper called the proposals “Windrush on steroids”.

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