Every Government Department is preparing for a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union. We are confident that we will be able to secure a deal that works in the mutual interests of both the UK and the rest of the EU. We are considering various policy options.
Some 472,000 people who have retired to the EU currently get automatic increases in the state pension, but it is unclear whether this Government will strike a deal on that after departure from the EU, if they manage to do so. Can the Minister guarantee today that elderly EU expats will not join the 550,000 retirees whose payments no longer increase in line with the state pension triple lock?
The Prime Minister has been clear that she wants to protect the rights of British citizens currently living in European member states, in the way that we want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here. That will clearly be an important matter for negotiation in the months ahead.
Does the Secretary of State agree that his Government have form on failing to protect workers’ rights? Any illusion about ability to deliver social justice for workers went up in smoke with the Dickensian Trade Union Act 2016. How can we trust his Department to guarantee workers’ rights after article 50 is triggered?
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has drawn the House’s attention to the fact that the Government have pledged to maintain workers’ rights in the course of the negotiations. I am happy also that he gives me the chance to remind the House that the greatest workers’ right is the right to a job, and that employment is at its highest ever level in this country.
Reports at the weekend suggest that the UK Government intend that EU migrants currently living here will retain access to benefits, but those who arrive after the triggering of article 50 will be denied access. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is actually dependent on the will of the EU member states, and his Government cannot guarantee any of those rights as they press ahead, dragging us into the unknown without any credible plan?
I am sure the hon. Lady knows that no one standing at this Dispatch Box would ever comment on speculative leaks. She will know as well that we are about to enter a negotiation. We are confident that we will get a good result for the people of Britain, and that is what we will be doing.