Her Majesty’s Government welcomed the sincere and well-informed debate on this highly topical subject on 7 March 2018, and therefore did not oppose the motion.
From the very beginning citizens have been at the heart of Her Majesty’s Government’s approach to negotiations. The Prime Minister was clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU was her first priority. This is a commitment we have delivered, and the agreement reached and set out in the withdrawal agreement text will provide citizens with certainty about their rights going forward.
The agreement grants citizens certainty about a wide range of rights, including residents’ healthcare, as well as pensions and other benefits. This will mean that UK nationals who are legally resident in the EU by the end of the implementation period will continue to benefit from rights that stem from their EU citizenship today. After the end of the implementation period, those rights will be provided for by the withdrawal agreement, which will enshrine them and take the status of international law, having direct effect in EU member states. The agreement will also be written into UK law by Parliament, to put in place reciprocal protections for EU citizens resident in the UK.
Her Majesty’s Government will always be happy to listen to any proposals on our exit from the European Union. However, as EU treaty provisions make clear, only citizens of EU member states are able to hold EU citizenship. This will mean that when the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union, UK nationals will no longer hold EU citizenship, unless they hold dual nationality of another EU member state.
To that end, associate EU citizenship is not one of our negotiating objectives and is not provided for by the EU treaties. For UK nationals to remain EU citizens after the UK’s exit from the EU, an amendment to the EU treaties would be required. Citizenship is the fundamental status of nationals of EU member states and while the EEA EFTA states are in the single market their nationals are not EU citizens and as such have more limited rights. This is not therefore something we could realistically expect the EU to agree to.
In March the Prime Minister set out the Government’s intention for a deep and special future partnership with the EU. She acknowledged that UK nationals will still want to work and study in EU countries—just as EU citizens will want to do the same here, helping to drive growth, innovation and enterprise. The Prime Minister made clear that businesses across the EU and the UK must be able to attract and employ the people they need, and that the Government are open to discussing how to facilitate these valuable links, within the context of new policies which manage migration at sustainable levels, in the UK’s best long-term interests.
Her Majesty’s Government will, at every step of these negotiations, work to secure the best possible deal for all UK nationals, including those currently living in the EU and those who wish to travel to the EU in future.
Her Majesty’s Government have been clear that as a result of leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom will no longer be a part of the single market. We have listened to EU leaders and we understand and respect the position that the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible and there can be no cherry-picking. Instead, we are seeking the broadest and deepest possible partnership with the EU—covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.
Her Majesty’s Government believe that UK nationals were citizens of Europe long before the introduction of EU citizenship through the Maastricht treaty in 1993. The United Kingdom may be leaving the political and legal structures of the EU, but UK nationals will not be any less European as a result.