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Parliamentary oversight of negotiations

Part of Informal European Council – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 5:30 pm, 6th February 2017

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I want to move on to my fourth point, on the important issue of EU nationals. Given my experience as a former Immigration Minister, I have some questions, and I hope the Minister will be able to address them to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the House.

First, I completely agree that it would be desirable to be able to put at rest the minds and concerns of EU nationals in the United Kingdom who are here lawfully and who contribute to our country, but it is also important to be able to put at rest the concerns and worries of British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. After all, the primary duty of the British Government is to look out for British citizens. That comes first, ahead of all else, and I fear that what the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich suggested—when he said that, if we cannot reach an early agreement, we should proceed anyway—might well put to rest the concerns of EU nationals in Britain, but would simply throw overboard the interests and concerns of UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. Doing that would not secure their interests, and it would throw away our ability to do so.