As the Prime Minister made clear in her open letter to EU citizens, we highly value the contributions they make to the UK’s economic, social and cultural fabric. Safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU was a first priority for negotiations. This is a commitment we have delivered on. The agreement reached in December in the joint report gives those covered certainty not only about residency but healthcare, pensions and other benefits.
The 2011 census stated that 20% of Kensington and Chelsea’s population were EU nationals. In Kensington, we have three schools for Spanish and for French students. Families are living in fear of the uncertainty. With the discussions on EU citizens’ rights opening next week, will the Minister reassure my existing EU constituents that they will retain all their rights once we leave the European Union?
The hon. Lady should welcome the fact that we reached in the joint report agreement on the wide range of rights that I just described, and that does provide certainty. We want to work with colleagues at the Home Office to ensure there is a streamlined process for the new settled status that will come in under UK law, to secure those rights in the long term.
Is the Minister not concerned that the Prime Minister’s reported comments about the more limited access to rights that those arriving during transition will have may have a chilling effect on drawing the skills and talent to the UK that his colleague spoke of a minute ago, to meet the labour market gaps that we urgently need to fill in many sectors?
We have been clear that during the implementation period, EU citizens should be able to continue to visit, live and work in the UK as they do now, and we will use that period to prepare for the future partnership. There will be a new registration scheme for EU nationals in preparation for our future immigration system. The citizens’ rights agreement reached in December, set out in the joint report, gives certainty about the rights of EU citizens already here going forward, but the agreement does not cover those arriving after we leave the EU.
Ah, yes, a Dorset knight.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that during the implementation period, all foreigners, including those in the European Union, will be treated equally in having access to our country?
We will remain an open and tolerant country that recognises the valuable contribution of those with the skills and expertise to make our society better, but we will also control the overall number of migrants who come to the UK. As we leave the EU, we are seeking to form new ambitious trade deals around the world with trading partners anew. We will have control of our borders, and free movement as it has worked during our EU membership will end when we leave the EU.