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Residency Rights (EU Nationals)

Volume 629: debated on Monday 16 October 2017

2. What her policy is on the residency rights of EU nationals (a) during any transitional phase and (b) after the UK leaves the EU. (901137)

The Prime Minister was clear in her Florence speech in September that people will continue to be able to come to, and live and work in, the UK. There will be a registration system—an essential preparation for the new immigration system required to retake control of our borders—and we will be setting out initial proposals for the implementation period in due course, and for our new immigration system later in the year.

I have encountered numerous cases where documents supplied to the Home Office by EU nationals have been misplaced or permanently lost. Does the Minister think it is fair or reasonable to expect people to endure the financial cost of replacing these documents for the Home Office? What assurances can he give that this issue will be addressed, especially given the chaos that is about to ensue as we leave the EU?

We are clear that we want to work with our partners in Europe to have a smooth and good system for EU citizens here to go through as they gain settled status as part of the fair and very serious proposal we made, and I am confident that we will be able to deliver that in a simple and clean system for them. Obviously, if the hon. Lady has particular cases that she feels we need to look at, I encourage her to write to me and I will happily look at them.

Ah, another knight popping up—or perhaps I should say “languidly rising.” I call Sir Edward Leigh.

There has been a lot of reportage and worry in this country about the number of EU nationals coming here perfectly legally. I am much more worried about what the Home Affairs Committee was told last week by David Wood, former head of immigration: there are 1 million illegals here, which the Home Office knows nothing about. Will the Minister’s Department focus on fast-tracking our friends and relations who are here legally from the EU so it can concentrate on the illegals?

We are very much focused on dealing with people who are here illegally; that is what the compliant environment work is all about. Obviously our friends and partners and citizens from the EU are, under free movement, here entirely legally. I encourage them to remain, as we value what they do for our society and economy, and we will remain focused on dealing with the illegal immigrants, who should be in their home countries.

The Scottish Government have said that they will meet the fee for settled status applications of EU citizens working in the public sector in Scotland, in order to keep vital workers in the NHS and other public services and to make it clear that we want them to stay because we welcome them. Will the United Kingdom Government match that promise—or, better still, waive the fee entirely?

I appreciate the comment that the hon. and learned Lady has made, and will certainly feed that through. Obviously, we are in negotiations at the moment; when they end, we will know exactly what the system will be.

Scotland does not want to lose the benefit of freedom of movement. Yesterday the Unison trade union said that immigration must be devolved to Scotland after Brexit or else there would be a population crisis. In saying that, Unison is joining with business in Scotland, including the Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors, who have said that they want a separate deal for immigration in Scotland. With this wide support from civic society for the devolution of at least some immigration to Scotland, what will it take for the Minister’s Department to give these calls the serious consideration that they deserve?

We have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee, who are going to be looking at the impact of European workers on our economies. We are clear that we value their input both in society to our communities and to our economy. We want EU citizens to stay and will be encouraging them to do so, as the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have done on numerous occasions.

The Minister will be aware that we cannot move on to trade talks with EU negotiators until we have resolved the questions of the Irish border, the financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights. When will Ministers accept that the Government’s current proposals on EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit fall short because, among other things, EU citizens will not have the same right to bring in family members that they currently enjoy?

Negotiations are progressing well. We are clear that, as our offer outlines, when we leave the European Union we will ensure that European citizens in this country have the same rights as British citizens. I am just disappointed that the right hon. Lady is not as focused on the rights of British citizens, both here and abroad.