My right hon. Friend makes an observation about the withdrawal agreement. It does of course include the backstop, but the Government’s intention is to avoid the backstop altogether. Even if there was such a need—if we had not reached a final agreement within the two-year period, which I believe we absolutely can—there is an option for the Government to extend the implementation period, which would avoid the issue that my right hon. Friend has highlighted.
So far, I have outlined some significant changes to our immigration system, which will be implemented in a phased approach from 2021. However, in some other areas there will be continuity rather than change. EU citizens already living here will continue to be able to live their lives here much as they do now. We value their significant contribution to the UK, and whatever happens, as we have said many times before, we want them to stay. We know how important our EU friends are to our economy, our society, our families, our history and also our future.
We have launched a series of trials of the EU settlement scheme, and I am pleased to say that they have all gone well so far. The scheme will be open to all EU citizens living in the UK by
Some right hon. and hon. Members have questioned why we need such a scheme in the first place. One of the reasons is to have a clear picture of who is in the country. I saw at first hand with Windrush the problems of not having a comprehensive registration scheme, and we cannot allow something like that ever to happen again. The decision made many decades ago not to have a suitable registration scheme for Commonwealth citizens in the UK was in hindsight a huge mistake, and I will not repeat it on my watch. There will be a proper, easy-to-use scheme in place for our EU friends so that their rights are protected. We will have to communicate it clearly to ensure the scheme is fully used, but our message to EU citizens throughout is absolutely clear: “Deal or no deal, we want you to stay”.
Although we have made it very clear that, after Brexit, EU citizens will be able to continue their lives much as before, not all EU member states have made a similar commitment to British citizens living in their countries. In fact, a number of countries have given no public assurances about the status of British nationals in the event of no deal. I think that is unacceptable, and I urge them to do so without any further delay.
I have outlined today what this deal means for immigration. For the first time in a generation, we will be able to build an immigration system that is designed in Britain, is made in Britain and serves only our national interest. The deal protects not only EU citizens living in the UK, but UK nationals living in the EU. It also goes much further. It is about protecting our economy and our security, and creating an immigration system over which we have full control.
Yes, the deal is a compromise—no one is claiming that it is perfect—but it is the only deal on offer that provides an orderly exit from the EU. The fact is that the clock is ticking. Now is the time for everyone to get behind this deal. It is in our hands to decide if we want this deal, no deal or, indeed, no Brexit at all. I know which option I prefer, and I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to join me in supporting this deal.