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Leaving the EU: EU Nationals in Scotland

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 1 March 2017

4. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on the status of EU nationals living in Scotland after the UK leaves the EU. (908901)

I have regular conversations with the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on a number of issues. The UK Government have made it absolutely clear in their White Paper that securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and of UK citizens in the EU is one of our top priorities in the Brexit negotiations.

The Secretary of State’s answer is not very reassuring given the speculation about a potential cut-off date for EU nationals later this month. The other place will vote on an amendment today that will secure the residency rights of EU nationals. If that is passed, will the Secretary of State urge his colleagues to end this disgraceful uncertainty on residency rights for EU nationals, who contribute so much to the Scottish and UK economies? If he does not, he will send out a very strong message that he is willing to use the lives of EU nationals as a bargaining chip for a hard Tory Brexit.

I agree with one thing the hon. Gentleman says: EU citizens in Scotland, and indeed in the whole United Kingdom, make a significant contribution to civic life and the economy of our country. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear, we want those people to stay. She has sent out a very clear message, and it is clearly set out in the White Paper. We do not believe that the Article 50 Bill is the place to set it out.

12. I will certainly bear it in mind that it is a similar question, Mr Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that the business community in Scotland shares a far more positive and optimistic outlook, rather than the forever-negative comments from the Scottish Government? (908909)

Order. This is on the importance of the rights of EU nationals. I am sure that that is what the hon. Gentleman meant.

I know that businesses across Scotland value the contribution that EU citizens make to their businesses, and I am clear with them that even when the UK leaves the EU, it will be important for EU citizens still to come to Scotland and play an important part in our economy.

A recent report from the British Medical Association shows that 40% of European doctors might leave the UK after Brexit because of the Government’s shameful inaction on giving a clear guarantee to EU nationals. Why will the UK Government not do the right thing and give a clear guarantee to EU nationals, who are a valued part of our society in Scotland, that they have the right to remain?

I am absolutely clear about the importance we place on the role of EU nationals in the economy and the health service, but I would take the hon. Lady’s comments about encouraging doctors and other medical professionals to come to Scotland a lot more seriously if her Government had not decided to tax them more than any other part of the UK.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that as well as safeguarding the role of EU citizens in the UK after we leave the EU, it is vital that we safeguard Scots people who have gone to live in other parts of the EU?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is vital that we secure the position of UK citizens in the EU, many of whom are Scots, and it is perfectly legitimate to take forward that issue in conjunction with securing the rights of EU citizens in Scotland and the rest of the UK. I am hopeful that that can be dealt with very early in the negotiations.

It is clear that the Government are happy to play political football with these people’s lives. It shows contempt for 12,000 people working in our health and social care service in Scotland and for 20,000 people working in the food industry, which the Secretary of State has just bragged is the most important part of Scottish industry. When will he stop treating these people this way and give them the guarantee they need to live a happy and secure life in Scotland?

I have made it absolutely clear, as has the Prime Minister, how much we value the contribution that EU nationals make in Scotland to both the economy and civic society. We want them to stay, but we also want UK nationals elsewhere in the EU to be able to stay where they are.