European Union Citizenship

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 7th March 2018.

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Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Brexit), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade) 2:15 pm, 7th March 2018

I must confess that I was entirely unaware of the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. If that is indeed the case, I think that it bears more examination, and I should be interested to discuss it with him further.

I was talking about Irish citizens and those of Irish extraction. There is a certain serendipity in the fact that UK-Irish citizens have those rights on the basis of one grandparent while the rest of us do not. There will be people like me with British citizenship, people of Irish extraction with Irish citizenship, Irish people with Irish citizenship who live, work and vote here, and EU citizens with a certain status, whatever that may be. There is a certain randomness about the whole arrangement, which would in some respects be addressed by an overarching European citizenship. I fear that that serendipity will inevitably become more pressing when those with the favoured passports join the short queue at holiday airports while their less fortunate neighbours wait in the “others” line. It will have hit us a bit harder by then.

The Government say that they want a close relationship with our EU partners. That is their ambition, cited over and over again. They now have a practical opportunity to support that relationship through continuation citizenship for current British EU citizens, and, for all those who will not be EU citizens at the point of our leaving—that is, the unborn—a future status through associate EU citizenship.

So far the debate has been dominated by trade issues, the divorce bill and the Irish border—those are the issues with which we have been grappling for many months—but many Brexit promises before the referendum had an individualistic quality. People felt that they were being promised something individually. We would be richer and have better services, not least through having an extra £350 million every week to spend on the NHS. Promises such as that persuaded people, along with, of course, the immigration issue.