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Freedom of Movement

Volume 664: debated on Thursday 5 September 2019

10. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect on the rights of (a) EU and (b) UK citizens of immediately ending freedom of movement in the event that UK leaves the EU on 31 October 2019. (912283)

The European Union has confirmed that it will grant UK nationals visa-free travel to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, even in a no-deal scenario. In the event of no deal, however, the arrangements for UK nationals travelling to European Union countries will change, and we have published advice on gov.uk on the steps that they will need to take.

Many EU nationals in my constituency have endured incredible stress and anxiety owing to the uncertainty that they have faced since the referendum. Their rights have been used as a bargaining chip with the EU, and the new Home Secretary even proposed legislation to stop freedom of movement immediately after no deal. Will the Minister assure us that citizens’ rights will no longer be used as a negotiating tool and will be unilaterally guaranteed?

Citizens’ rights will not be used as a negotiating tool, and they have not been used as a negotiating tool. The hon. Lady has mischaracterised the position. It is the Prime Minister who has made a big, bold offer to EU citizens, and it is now for member states to reciprocate.

What assessment have the Government made of the impact on people with pre-existing health conditions who will no longer be able to use their European health insurance cards to cover their conditions if they either live in the EU or are travelling?

That will depend on decisions and arrangements with individual countries. The UK has made a big, bold offer to EU nationals in this country, and I encourage those countries to reciprocate.

I welcome the Minister to his post. As he will know, over the summer recess a Home Office advertisement relating to settled status was banned for being misleading. The uncertainty created by conflicting messages is causing real fear among EU citizens in the UK and the British in Europe.

On 21 August, I wrote to the Secretary of State seeking clarity on five key issues. I have not received a reply, so I wonder whether the Minister can answer one of those questions now. I am reassured by his indication that he likes to engage in detail. EU citizens were promised that if the UK left the EU without a deal, their rights would be the same as they would be under the withdrawal agreement. Can the Minister confirm that, despite previous indications to the contrary, the Government will retain the right to appeal against settled-status decisions in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

The settled status scheme is working very well: more than 1 million of the 3 million people have applied, nobody has been rejected, and people may apply all the way up to 31 December 2020.