As the Prime Minister set out to the House earlier this week, an agreement has been reached that will secure the rights of 3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK and 1 million UK nationals living in the EU. This agreement will enable citizens to go on living their lives broadly as they do now in the country in which they have chosen to live.
I welcome both that answer and the agreement that has been reached. Does my hon. Friend agree that that agreement delivers on the pledges and the reassurances that we have made consistently to EU citizens living in this country, and that, in delivering for both EU citizens in this country and British citizens abroad, it is a vindication of the practical and sensible approach taken by this Government?
My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that I do agree with him. The Prime Minister has always been clear that we wanted an early agreement on citizens’ rights and that any agreement must be reciprocal to protect the rights of 4 million people. I am delighted that we have delivered that commitment. The agreement will mean that UK nationals in the EU can have confidence that they can carry on living their lives as before. It will provide them with certainty about residency, healthcare and pensions, and, of course, the same goes for EU nationals in the UK.
I recognise the huge contribution that the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK have made, particularly in the NHS, which was brought home to me by Stephane Guegan in my constituency. Can the Minister confirm that that issue will remain front and centre in any difficult negotiations going forward?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the case of one of her constituents who has made a significant contribution. I think that we all recognise that from our own constituencies. I trust that she joins me in welcoming the cost-free exchange of EU permanent residence documents for the new settled status documents as one part of the agreement that we have reached. None the less, she is right that we must continue to take this issue seriously.
Unfortunately, the 3 million EU 27 citizens living in this country and the UK citizens living in the EU 27 do not feel that certainty because of the words
“nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Will the Government not now commit to putting an amendment down to any of the forthcoming EU Bills to give that certainty?
The hon. Lady will recognise that certainty in a reciprocal deal has to be delivered through the withdrawal agreement, but we have been very clear from the start of this process that we want to protect the rights of citizens and to make sure that they can continue to live their lives as before, and that is a commitment on which we have delivered through the joint resolution last week.
Due to the staffing crisis in the NHS, trusts have spent thousands of pounds recruiting EU citizens to work in the service. In York, they recruited 40 Spanish nurses; only three now remain because of the uncertainty. What assessment has the Minister made of the situation?
I refer the hon. Lady to the answers that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) gave earlier and to some of the facts that show that there are actually more EU citizens working in the NHS today than a year ago. We absolutely have to continue to send the message that we welcome the work that they are doing and that these people make a significant contribution to our country and our NHS.