EU/British Citizens’ Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:24 pm on 18th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alberto Costa Alberto Costa Conservative, South Leicestershire 1:24 pm, 18th June 2019

I thank the Minister for his response. I also want to put on the record my gratitude to the Secretary of State for meeting with the3million and British in Europe a few weeks ago. It is inconceivable that a British Government—let alone a Conservative Government—could allow the rights of British nationals working, living or studying in the EU to vaporise overnight on 31 October. However, we find ourselves in a deeply unpalatable position in which our fellow citizens, and EU nationals resident in this country, have had their rights wrongly placed on the negotiating table.

I am not here to criticise the outgoing Prime Minister. I am here to invite whoever is going to take over, and the current Minister and his team, to ratchet things up a few notches to ensure that the will of this House, which was unanimously passed on 27 February, to carve out the citizens’ rights element of the withdrawal agreement, thereby protecting under international law the rights of British nationals in the EU and the rights of EU citizens here, is carried out. We have seen two letters thus far, and I am inviting the Government to do the right thing, which means ensuring that a task force is set up urgently. Members of the existing Government, senior civil servants and other stakeholders should meet urgently with Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and other stakeholders in the EU to convey the unanimous will of this House. There is no disagreement across the House or, indeed, across the Brexit divide on the protection of citizens’ rights—no disagreement at all. This is low-hanging fruit, yet, for some reason or another, we simply have not achieved that agreement.

I welcome the Minister’s work, and I know he has done a lot of work in particular on the voting rights of EU nationals here. I compliment him on his work, but when this House is united and when the devolved nations of our country have backed the House of Commons on this issue, there is no excuse for the UK Government to do anything other than intensify their efforts to get an agreement on the rights of citizens.

I end how I started. Never in peacetime, never, have the rights of over 1 million British citizens been placed on the negotiating table like this. I say to the British Government once again that, as a responsible Conservative Government, the rights of our citizens, along with the rights of EU nationals, must be protected whatever the outcome of Brexit.