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Citizens’ Rights

Volume 630: debated on Thursday 2 November 2017

1. What steps he is taking to maintain the rights of non-UK EU nationals resident in the UK in negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. (901552)

5. What steps he is taking to maintain the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after the UK has left the EU. (901557)

We have made a lot of progress through five rounds of constructive negotiations, and we are now within touching distance of an agreement on citizens’ rights. Providing swift reassurance and certainty to citizens as quickly as possible is a shared objective. With flexibility and creativity on both sides, I am confident that we can conclude discussions on citizens’ rights in the coming weeks.

Universities UK and Universities Scotland have expressed concerns about accessing skilled labour after Brexit. Does my hon. Friend agree that the mutual recognition of professional qualifications should be a priority in the forthcoming negotiations?

I agree heartily with my hon. Friend. Of course, our science and research paper sets out the importance of continuing to meet the talent needs of our country. In the negotiations, we have set out a positive approach to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, and we would like to see broader definitions for the professions and individuals in scope.

My right hon. Friend is right to characterise it as such, particularly as regards the mutual recognition of professional qualifications but also in other areas, such as the voting rights that we would afford EU citizens in the UK. We would like those rights to be reciprocated for UK citizens across the EU.

At Edinburgh University, 25% of the senior academic staff are EU nationals. What is the Minister saying to institutions such as Edinburgh University, which needs those staff to be able to compete as one of the world’s leading universities?

I have met representatives of Edinburgh University and visited them to discuss exactly that issue. I recognise the benefit that the university receives from EU nationals working there; indeed, nationals of countries from across the world contribute to the university’s research. The university has welcomed what we set out in our science and research paper, and we will continue to work closely with the university sector to make sure that we can meet its needs.

EU nationals living in my constituency who are seeking permanent residency or settled status are being advised that currently there is no process and they will have to wait for a letter telling them to leave the country, which unsurprisingly causes a great deal of anxiety and distress. Is that the official advice? If not, what is the official advice?

The official advice is that the Home Office is clearly working on a process to ensure that settled status can be achieved as straightforwardly as possible. There is no need for anyone to apply for that status as yet, because it is very clear that EU nationals living in the UK have the right to be here under EU freedom of movement rules. What we are talking about is putting in place a process for when the legal order changes. As the Prime Minister says, we want them to stay, and we want to make that process as straightforward as possible.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not only do EU citizens in this country need rapid reassurance of their status, but the very large number of British citizens living in a host of EU countries need the same reassurance? When does he expect to conclude this agreement?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why it is very important that we work through the detail of this agreement to show how it works on both sides, and that it can deliver both for EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. As I have said, the talks have been constructive and we believe that we are within touching distance of reaching a full agreement.

Last night, this House unanimously passed a binding motion requiring the Government to provide 58 sectoral impact assessments to the Brexit Select Committee. Non-EU UK nationals work in many of those 58 sectors, and you indicated, Mr Speaker, that it was not a motion that needed to be deliberated over for a long time. When will the papers be handed over?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was present for the whole of yesterday’s debate. As he noted, I said that we would respond appropriately, and we will do so as soon as conceivable.

“As soon as conceivable”, I would hope, means by the end of the week, and certainly before this House goes into recess. I think that that was the period we were discussing last night. But the motion was clear: it is the impact assessments that must be provided—not redacted copies, but the assessments. The Government could have amended the motion, but they chose not to. Can it now be confirmed that the full copies will be handed over, and that it will then be for the Brexit Select Committee to decide to what extent, and in what form, the assessments are published?

I gently point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the first use of the word “redactions” in the debate came from him, on the Front Bench, speaking for the Opposition. We take very seriously the motion of Parliament, and we will be responding to it. The Secretary of State has already spoken to the Chairman of the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union and will be discussing this matter with him further in due course.