As hon. Members will be aware, we have reached a reciprocal agreement with the EU that safeguards the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK nationals in the EU. This agreement, highlighted green in the withdrawal agreement, means that citizens who are resident before the end of the implementation period will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do now. The Government are now focusing on the successful domestic implementation of this agreement, and we are seeking further details on the steps that member states are taking to protect the status of UK nationals resident in the EU.
Following yesterday’s debate about the Windrush generation and the Prime Minister’s decision to hide the whole business behind a cloak of secrecy, what plans does the Minister have to talk to the Home Secretary to ensure that the process to deal with EU nationals will be open and transparent, and to ensure that their right to remain is fully protected, so they do not fear removal at some unknown date in the future?
Like the new Home Secretary’s parents, my parents came to this country in the 1960s as immigrants from Commonwealth countries, and they too could have been caught up in the Windrush episode. I would not be standing here as a proud Member of the Conservative party and of this Government if I had any doubt whatsoever about the commitment of the Prime Minister and the Government to resolving this issue quickly and ensuring it is not repeated.
It is with that confidence that we are learning and implementing the settlement scheme for EU citizens, which will be efficient, simple, user friendly and reliable, to ensure that the rights of EU citizens post Brexit are safeguarded rigorously and robustly.
I admire the Minister’s confidence, but I wonder whether she has had conversations with her colleagues in the Home Office, which has now declared an amnesty on Commonwealth citizens and is having to implement a helpline and support for the Windrush generation. That will extend to others, and the Home Office is also having to introduce, by November, the new fast-route EU citizens settlement programme. Does she seriously believe that, practically, the Home Office and the Government have the resources to deal with this, and can she reassure my constituents?
The UK has been clear that EU citizens in the UK will be able to enforce their rights directly in UK courts, and that will be fully incorporated into UK law in the withdrawal agreement. We have also agreed there will be an independent monitoring authority to oversee the implementation and application of citizens’ rights and of that agreement in the UK. The authority will be able to receive complaints from EU citizens and their family members, and it will be able to conduct inquiries. Those robust mechanisms, rights and frameworks will be given legal status in the withdrawal agreement and in the implementation Bill.
As an EU national married to a UK citizen, if she has been here for the requisite number of years before the implementation period, her rights will be broadly the same as they are now. We want to ensure that she will have the same abilities and rights as she is able to enjoy today.