Skip to main content

British Citizens: Working Abroad

Volume 801: debated on Tuesday 7 January 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they plan to take to protect opportunities to work in Europe for British citizens resident in (1) the United Kingdom, and (2) abroad.

My Lords, protecting citizens’ rights has been a priority for Her Majesty’s Government in our negotiations with the European Union. The withdrawal agreement provides citizens with certainties about their rights, meaning that approximately 1 million UK nationals in the EU can continue to live their lives broadly as they do now. Her Majesty’s Government are committed to agreeing a future partnership with the EU by December 2020. The details, including those on mobility, are a matter for negotiation.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the recent survey indicating that thousands of UK jobs in the seasonal tourism sector have disappeared in the last year alone? Much of our trade in services with Europe, including IT and the creative industries, will not be viable unless the disadvantages of leaving the single market—loss of free movement, uncertainties over the A1 certificate, the cost of moving equipment such as musical instruments—are fully addressed. Are the Government working on a solution? Blue cards are not a solution for the many British workers on contracts who are now deeply worried.

My Lords, I assure the noble Earl that of course we are working in a very pragmatic fashion with our EU partners. The political declaration, as I have already said, includes a commitment to conclude ambitious arrangements for services and investment that go beyond WTO commitments, build on recent EU free trade agreements and provide new arrangements on key service sectors, including financial services. The noble Earl will also be pleased to know that we have agreed to negotiate visa-free travel for short-term visits and arrangements for the temporary entry and stay of citizens for business purposes in key areas. This will also allow businesses to move their employees and to provide services. We are also considering conditions for entry and stay for purposes including research, study, training and youth exchanges.

My Lords, the Minister talked about British citizens continuing to live their lives “broadly” as they do now, a word which could carry quite a lot of weight. Can he tell us whether the Government are addressing the issue of British residents who reside in one EU country but have been working across borders in several countries? Of course, free movement rights give them that flexibility. One thinks of translators, interpreters, the musicians that the noble Earl mentioned and those in many other professions. Are the Government addressing the challenge they face in continuing to practise their profession without having to get work permits for every country in which they might be called upon to work at short notice?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will know that we have agreed to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and we are working with our EU partners to assure UK nationals’ rights in the EU under the withdrawal agreement. Details along the lines of what the noble Baroness suggested are of course very much in the mix in the discussions we are having with the European Union. Issues of residence, the rights of workers and the issues she raised in the music industry, where people are often self-employed, are very much part of the discussions we will continue to have and will be among the details that emerge from the political declaration, as has already been stated.

My Lords, it is obvious that this is quite a complex issue, as we have heard. These are people who have spent many years working in EU countries: 750,000 of our citizens are doing that. How confident is the Minister that we will be able to conclude arrangements covering all these complex issues by December of this year?

My Lords, there were many who doubted that the withdrawal agreement could be reopened. It was—a new deal was presented which is making its passage through both Houses of Parliament and we hope to agree the first stage of the withdrawal agreement by the end of this month. Yes, we are confident that we have the resources and the people in place and we will continue to work across government, including consulting with key sectors, to ensure that the arrangements that need to be in place by the end of the year are in place.

My Lords, the Minister has not mentioned mutual recognition of qualifications. This is a huge issue for people working abroad and, indeed, for European citizens working here. Where does the responsibility lie within government for securing that mutual recognition? What work is now under way?

All parts of government are involved in the discussions covering all aspects of our departure from the European Union. The noble Lord is quite right to raise the issue of professional qualifications. EU professionals resident or frontier working in the UK, or vice versa—UK nationals working in the EU—will continue to have their professional qualifications recognised.