Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:59 pm on 28th January 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 5:59 pm, 28th January 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the UK is once more an outlier in terms of the refugee family reunion rules it has in place. Sadly, the Bill does not mention asylum at all, and gives us little chance to address those issues.

These and a million other things need to be fixed, but this Bill does not do that; instead, it provides the Government with a big blank cheque to extend many of these flawed features to hundreds of thousands more people, each and every year.

On EU nationals who are already here, although scrapping the fee for settled status is welcome, much more needs to be done. The Home Secretary says he is listening, but the biggest concern just now is what happens in the event of no deal. Unilateral promises from the Government are fine in so far as they go, but promises can be here today and gone tomorrow and, being unilateral, they are no help to the UK in Europe, nor do they have the force of international law. That is why MPs across the House have repeatedly urged the Government to seek to ring-fence the deal on citizen rights so that they can be guaranteed once and for all sooner rather than later. But the Government have shown absolutely no interest so far. We should use the Bill to try to make them at least attempt to secure such a deal, and we should use the Bill to enshrine the rights of the 3 million in primary legislation so that they cannot be changed in the blink of an eye via immigration rules.

Other questions remain. Why are there differences between the positions of EU citizens in a no-deal scenario compared with if a deal is agreed? Why are there to be settled status appeal rights if there is a deal, but not if there is no deal? Why are the appeal rights not in the Bill? Why are voting rights not protected? Why are the 3 million to be refused physical documentation despite calls from the Exiting the European Union Committee to make that available? Where is the clarity about rights for Surinder Singh cases, and the different rights of carers from Chen, Ibrahim and Teixeira case law?

Perhaps most significantly of all, we still do not know anything about what will happen to those who fail to apply for settled status in time. Why should there be such a severe cut-off date? It is inevitable that hundreds of thousands will not apply in time: many children; people who have been resident for many years; those who think having a permanent residence document is sufficient; people who struggle with language or technology; vulnerable and exploited people; people who were born here and do not think they need to apply—the list goes on. We must also remember that in a recent British Medical Association survey, 37% of EU national doctors were unaware of the scheme. That does not bode well.