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EU Nationals in the UK

Volume 773: debated on Wednesday 29 June 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to take steps to reassure European Union nationals currently resident in the United Kingdom that their future in this country will not be affected as a result of the European Union referendum result.

My Lords, as the Prime Minister has said, there will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of European nationals currently residing in the United Kingdom. European Union nationals do not need to apply at present for a resident’s card or a permanent resident’s card to enjoy their free movement rights and responsibilities.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, does he not agree that unless we make it clear to European Union nationals, who we have welcomed here to work and make their careers, that in the event of Brexit they will have an unconditional right to remain and to continue in those careers, we will find it impossible to recruit such people for our businesses, particularly in the City, and will do ourselves a great deal of damage?

Any criteria set which enable EU citizens to remain in the United Kingdom following exit from the European Union will depend on the outcome of the negotiations and the scope of any reciprocal agreements concerning British citizens who live in other member states.

My Lords, would it not be up to Her Majesty’s Government to open the way for EU nationals to reside in this country after we leave the European Union?

It will, as I say, be a feature of any future negotiation to determine the status of EU citizens within the United Kingdom and of British citizens within the EU.

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House with whom the Government would negotiate to secure the position of European citizens who live and work in this country now? Surely there can be no reason why the decision to allow those people to stay should not be taken by this Government alone.

As noble Lords are aware, nothing will change overnight as a result of the decision to leave the European Union, and no determination will be made at this time with regard to citizens within the United Kingdom.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the social abuse that foreigners have suffered over the last few days since the referendum, and will he kindly look at the offence of threatening, abusive and insulting words and behaviour under the Public Order Act 1936, as well as the offence of acts intended or likely to stir up racial or religious hatred under the 2001 Act? If he comes to the conclusion that they have been very narrowly drafted, for all that they have achieved, will the Government be prepared to legislate on this matter?

My Lords, recent behaviour towards EU citizens in this country is to be deprecated. We consider that we have sufficient laws in place to deal with these matters without further review at this time.

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that the Prime Minister made it clear that EU citizens who are living in this country, with employment in this country, will be able to remain so? Does he recognise that people are sick and fed up that this fearmongering campaign is continuing after we have made a clear decision? It is important that EU nationals who are resident in this country are reassured of their position. Will he please do so?

My Lords, those EU nationals who are resident in the country at the present time can be reassured that there will be no change, as our membership of the EU continues over the next number of years. Nevertheless, as the Prime Minister has made clear, it is for the next Prime Minister and Government to decide when to trigger Article 50 and to carry on the relevant negotiations.

My Lords, the House was calling for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, before that stronger intervention and then I think it is the turn of the Labour Benches.

My Lords, I am most grateful. Do the Government accept that there are about 3 million EU nationals living at present in the United Kingdom, but there are also 1.2 million British people living in the European Union? When present tensions have calmed down, why would either Brussels or London want to do anything to upset this mutually beneficial situation? Do the Government agree however, that if the EU were to get difficult with our nationals living there, it is we who hold the stronger hand if we retaliate, because so many more of them are living here?

My Lords, the mutual benefits of having UK citizens living in Europe and European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom are obvious and apparent; no doubt that will be reflected in the negotiations that are to be carried on after Article 50.