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Citizens’ Rights

Volume 628: debated on Thursday 7 September 2017

3. What assessment he has made of the progress during negotiations on reaching agreement on the future status of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU27 after the UK has left the EU. (900641)

As the House will be aware, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set out, our Department has prioritised this strand in negotiations. We recognise the importance of providing swift reassurance to 4 million people—EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. In August, we agreed to protect the rights of frontier workers, cover future social security contributions and protect existing healthcare rights and arrangements for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.

Businesses across my constituency and throughout the country are worried, not just about retaining staff but about attracting the brightest and the best. Heathrow, which is just outside my constituency, employs thousands locally, and medical research firms contribute massively across the country. What can the Minister say to assure them that Brexit will not destroy their competitiveness?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We do want to make sure that as we look towards the future and towards a new immigration policy after we have left the European Union, we can meet the needs of business and our economy. I am glad that the Home Office has commissioned work from the Migration Advisory Committee looking at all sectors of the economy and all parts of the UK, to make sure that we can continue to attract the brightest and the best.

Will my hon. Friend reiterate and emphasise the Government’s commitment to settling the question of EU nationals, giving them the stability they need through securing their rights, including keeping families together?

Absolutely. My right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We have set out in our paper a fair and serious offer to maximise certainty for people— individuals and families—and it is important to remember that this applies equally to EU nationals living in the UK and many of our own nationals living across the EEA.

Some of the proposals the Government have apparently been considering on the future of EU migration may apply from the day on which we leave the European Union. Irrespective of the status of any leaked document, does the Minister agree that the Government should not make any changes that would prevent them from securing a transitional deal to protect jobs and the economy?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I will not comment on any leaked documents, but of course it is important that we secure certainty and continuity for citizens in this process. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set out very clearly our commitment to establishing interim arrangements, and we look forward to discussing those issues in the context of the future partnership, which will be crucial to securing results on both.

Does my hon. Friend agree that striking a positive position with respect to future migration from the EU will be really important not just for the labour market, where we have skills shortages at all skill levels in the economy, but as one of the keys to help secure the best possible final trade deal with the EU?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is very clear from what the Prime Minister has said that even after we have left the EU we will continue to want to seek talent from Europe. We will continue to strike that positive attitude, but it is important in the interests of both UK and European citizens that we get on with the discussions, proceed at pace and secure a deal that provides maximum certainty.

Perhaps I have given the Minister time to think about actually answering my question about making a commitment not to introduce any new migration rules from 2019 that will impact on a transitional deal. Looking beyond 2019, let me also ask: given that the Government are committed to the principle of reciprocity in any deal on citizens’ rights, would he be happy for UK citizens living and working in the EU to be subject to biometric screening and fingerprinting?

The hon. Gentleman has asked very theoretical questions about future policy, and I am not going to get into commenting on other Departments’ policies that have not yet been published. What is important is that we negotiate in good faith to secure the best outcome for UK citizens and for EU citizens, and that is exactly what we are doing.