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Immigration White Paper

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 5th February 2018.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 3:42 pm, 5th February 2018

I welcome the Immigration Minister to her new post, but she did not give us any information about immigration or the immigration White Paper. The Home Secretary told the House and the Select Committee in October that there would be an immigration White Paper by the end of last year and a Bill early this year. The then Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis, told the Committee in November that the White Paper would be produced “soon”, but now we have this. What on earth is going on? I have to say to the new Minister that this is a shambles. I understand that the MAC is not reporting until the autumn and that it will want to take advice on the labour market, but Ministers knew that timetable before Christmas, when they answered those questions. They knew that timetable because they set it when they asked for advice from the MAC. I also understand that negotiations are continuing, but, again, Ministers knew that before Christmas. In addition, this does not get around the obligation on the Home Office to tell the House, the public, EU citizens and employers what its negotiating objectives actually are.

These practical questions need answering very soon, not “in good time” or “when the time is right”. For example, what will the legal status be of the EU nationals who have not registered by the end of the grace period? The Home Secretary told the Committee that that would be in the White Paper. What will the arrangements be for European economic area citizens from Norway or Switzerland? If EU citizens arriving after March next year do not register, will they be able to work? Will employers have to check their registration documents? Will landlords have to make checks before they rent these people a property? What is the position for EU students coming this autumn? What will the arrangements for them be?

We know that the Prime Minister wants people arriving after March 2019 to be treated differently, but we have no idea how. It is just not good enough keeping Parliament in the dark in this way. The Government have said they do not want to be in the single market, but they have not told us what they want instead. They have said that they do not want to be in the customs union, but they have not told us what they want instead. Now they have said that they do not want to have free movement, but, again, they have not told us what they want instead or even what their negotiation objectives are. At best, Ministers are cutting Parliament and the public out of the crucial debate about the future of our country. At worst, they seem to be stuck in negotiations without having agreed, even among themselves, what they want to achieve out of them. May I suggest to the Immigration Minister that she asks the Home Secretary to come to this House to make a full statement, at least on the transition arrangements, because the clock is ticking and when you are running out of time, you cannot keep kicking the can down the road?