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No Deal: UK Citizens’ Rights

Volume 657: debated on Thursday 4 April 2019

20. What steps the Government are taking to help ensure the protection of the rights of UK citizens living in the EU in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (910233)

After much urging by the UK, we are pleased that all member states have given some public assurance to protect the rights of UK nationals. We will continue to call on member states to fully reciprocate our unilateral offer. The Government supported the amendment from our hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa) and have sought the EU’s views on ring-fencing the citizens’ rights parts of the withdrawal agreement. Michel Barnier has responded, and we are now considering our response to his letter.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. I am deeply opposed to the legislation that was passed in this House last night. I strongly favour leaving with no deal if we cannot get a deal with the EU. However, I would be grateful if my hon. Friend updated me on the steps he is taking to protect the rights of our citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, should we leave with no deal.

Where I agree with my hon. Friend is that we should absolutely protect the rights of citizens and do everything in our power to do so. We have always been steadfast in our commitment to protecting those rights. Today, we have announced a further series of measures to protect UK nationals in the EU and those who choose to return to the UK after exit. There are important measures on social security co-ordination, a seven-year transition period for UK nationals in the EEA and Switzerland to continue to access student finance and home fee status in England, and a transition period for UK nationals who return to the EU with their non-UK family members for them to apply to the EU settlement scheme.

It was very welcome news this week that Germany will be unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of UK subjects in Germany. Will my hon. Friend tell us which if any of the EU27 are not known to be guaranteeing the rights of UK nationals?

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. We welcome some of the steps that have been taken. He mentioned Germany, and the Czech Republic has been clear in reciprocating our unilateral offer. There is a varied playing field within the European Union, it is fair to say. Some member states have not been as generous as we might like them to be. We will continue to urge them to meet the generosity of our unilateral offer and continue to explore what we can do reciprocally to ensure that the best possible protections are in place for our citizens.