The latest data show that in the two quarters following the referendum 136,479 applications for residence documentation were received from EU nationals and their family members, and the application fee for this documentation is £65.
Three per cent. of Newcastle’s population are EU nationals, and be they in our hospitals, universities, restaurants or high-tech start-ups—or in our championship- topping football team—they are an integral part of our lives. Does the Minister realise how insecure they feel as bargaining chips, and how does he justify charging them for the privilege?
I would certainly pay tribute to the contribution that EU nationals make in all spheres of life, not least football, but particularly in the health service and our public services. While they are here and we are members of the European Union, they can exercise their treaty rights. As the Home Secretary has said, we wish to sort this situation out as soon as possible, and of course we also need to recognise the status of UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, who deserve and want the same protections.
Many people will have documentation already available, for example, their national insurance or tax forms; they may appear on the electoral register. All sorts of documentation could be relevant in this case, but I must stress that nobody needs to get any additional documentation at this stage. We are absolutely happy that people continue making a contribution, and they should not be worried about their future here in the UK.
I urge caution about describing these people as “bargaining chips”. It is absolutely right that we are keen early in the negotiations to secure the status of EU nationals living here, but at the same time we do need to ensure that British nationals living elsewhere in the European Union get that same protection.
Some EU nationals—for example, Roma or those from central Europe—find it particularly difficult to produce documentation, as they may have been in insecure employment, have ended up sleeping rough and so on. Following on from the Minister’s answer to the hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), what can be done to ensure that those who have lived, worked and contributed here but who struggle to produce documentation will also receive a fair hearing?
I stress again that there is no need for EU nationals who are living here and exercising their treaty rights to make any change in their status; there is no need for any further documentation. As we quickly get into the negotiations after triggering article 50, I hope that this will be resolved very quickly.