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EU Nationals: Residence Rights

Volume 636: debated on Monday 26 February 2018

European Union citizens resident before we leave the EU are covered by the agreement we reached in December. We welcome the contribution they have made both to our economy and our societies, and they and their families can stay and carry on living their lives here.

The reality is that many sectors that rely on EU nationals are struggling with recruitment, and the Government have created further uncertainty with mixed messages about the status of EU nationals who come here during any transitional period, so will the Minister provide clarity for businesses and people thinking about coming here? What will be their rights, and will they match the rights of the 3 million EU citizens already living here?

At various points over the last six weeks I have in this House—and, indeed, in Committee—highlighted the rights that will be available to EU nationals living here. The Government have undertaken to provide regular updates, and I can assure the House that that will indeed be the case going forward.

When might the immigration Bill actually be brought forward, and what is the reason for its lengthy delay?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Of course, that Bill was the subject of an urgent question in the House, and I made it very clear then that it will be coming forward in due course.

While protecting the rights of EU nationals who are already here, can the Minister reassure my constituents that, whatever the other details of the final Brexit agreement, it will include the end of free movement?

We have been very clear that, when people voted to leave the European Union back in 2016, that involved the end of free movement, so I can certainly reassure the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents that that will be the case.

I am pleased that the Government are delivering on their pledge to secure the rights of EU citizens here—especially those from Taunton Deane. Will my right hon. Friend comment, however, on how straightforward applying to stay might be, and whether we might have a little more detail?

It is very important that we make it clear that, for EU citizens already living here and who have come here before the specified date, we want as smooth and seamless a process as possible. They will be able to apply digitally online, and we want that process to open on a voluntary basis later this year.

The most recent migration statistics show immigration from outside the EU, which the Government have always been able to control, going up, while EU citizens are leaving in their largest numbers for almost a decade. The Government have again postponed their White Paper on post-Brexit immigration strategy. Rather than taking back control, are this Government in fact driven by confusion and inaction?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are working very hard to make sure we have a sustainable immigration system both now and going forward. I welcome the fact that there are so many students coming here to study—he will of course be aware that there is no limit on the number of students who can come to this country—but what I really welcome is the number of EU citizens who came to this country not just looking for a job, but with a job to go to.