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

The paradox has not escaped me.

Here is a chance for the Government to redeem themselves partially by securing for all UK individuals in the future that which they already have: UK and European citizenship. That would be popular. According to research findings published last year by the LSE and Opinium, six out of 10 people want to keep their EU citizenship. Support for retaining rights is particularly strong among 18 to 24-year-olds, 85% of whom want to retain their EU citizenship. They are the generation, more than any other, that will have to deal with the long-term fallout from Brexit over the coming decades, and to deal practically and emotionally with the loss of their firm expectation of continuing EU citizenship. Many members of that generation did not have a vote in the referendum, although they will be profoundly affected by its consequences—unless, of course, the Government take heed of our argument today. Thankfully, it is not my responsibility to drum up support for the Conservatives, but were the Government just to look to their own enlightened self-interest, they would see that at least one path is clear from the debate. If they will not do so, can we at least expect the Labour party to see where its interest lies, to support the motion, and to protect our people’s rights?

I am advised by wiser heads that there would be no new treaty requirements, so now is the time for the Government to give a clear and practical sign that they are taking UK citizens’ rights seriously—not by withdrawing our rights without our explicit consent, but by securing European Union citizenship for all, not just the random few. What is needed now, and what is currently lacking, is vision and clear political leadership to mend some of the divisions that Brexit has opened up. In the Prime Minister’s own words last Monday,

“let us get on with it.”—[Official Report, 5 March 2018;
Vol. 637, c. 28.]