European Union Citizenship

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 7th March 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 2:57 pm, 7th March 2018

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It comes as no surprise that the deputy director general of the CBI, no less, has said of this Tory Government that he is “hugely frustrated” by their lack of progress on an immigration Bill.

EU citizens are our friends, our colleagues and our neighbours. They are people on whose doors we knocked in the general election last year. When people are making a positive contribution to our economy, our national health service, which already has issues with recruitment, social care, our universities and other sectors, the Government’s continuing failure to legislate only highlights the fact that they could have done so much unilaterally a long time ago. The Minister referred to the phase 1 agreement, which I have in front of me, and the continuing uncertainty mentioned by the hon. Member for Arfon remains an issue. Paragraph 34 of the agreement is clear:

“Both Parties agree that the Withdrawal Agreement should provide for the legal effects of the citizens’
rights Part both in the UK and in the Union. UK domestic legislation should also be enacted to this effect.”

Where is the legislation? It should be brought forward as soon as possible.

We now know that nothing will be agreed in the negotiations until everything is agreed. We also know, because the Immigration Minister told the House a few weeks ago, that the Migration Advisory Committee has been asked

“to advise on the economic aspects of the UK’s exit” by September, and I see that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Walker, is nodding. The Immigration Minister then said that there was

“plenty of time to take account of the MAC’s recommendations in designing the longer-term immigration system for the UK.”—[Official Report, 5 February 2018;
Vol. 635, c. 1212.]

She says “plenty of time” but this is a two-year Parliament, and she has until March 2019 to get legislation on the statute book. Time is of the essence. If I take the Minister at her word that we will have the legislation when the time is right, may I gently suggest that that time might be now? She attends the Cabinet in her role as Immigration Minister, and she needs to persuade the Cabinet to give her the time to bring the legislation before this House. While it is my view and that of the Opposition that the status of EU nationals in this country should have been dealt with unilaterally a long time ago, not left subject to negotiation in this way—nor should there ever have been the reported comments of the International Trade Secretary that people be used as bargaining chips—the Minister could act now, and act she should.

I welcome the contribution from the hon. Member for Arfon, and the Minister said that it would be considered, and we must be careful about not excluding options from the table as we go forward. None the less, I suggest to the Minister, as she tries to put together the whole gamut of immigration policy for this country post-Brexit, that in order to achieve a fair, managed and efficient policy she must look at this country’s economic needs and work with business and the trade unions.