EU/British Citizens’ Rights

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

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 1:24 pm, 18th June 2019

I commend Alberto Costa not only for securing this urgent question but for his tireless efforts on behalf of EU nationals in the UK and of UK nationals overseas. I welcome the assurances in the Secretary of State’s letter, but two big questions still remain. First, why has it taken so long to get not very far? Three years since the referendum, the UK Government have still failed to give the assurances that the Scottish Government were prepared to give the day after the referendum if only they had the powers to do so. I welcome the assurances from the Government, but those assurances ring hollow when we remember the shameful complacency this Government showed two weeks ago when they completely washed their hands of the fact that thousands of these same citizens were denied the basic right to vote in European elections. Why do the Government still insist on a settled status scheme based on, “You apply and we might say no”? And they do say no; far too often, and for no valid reason, they turn down applications from my constituents and others. Why do the Government not go for the scheme the Scottish Government have suggested, which is simply an approach of, “This is your home, thank you for being here, please stay”? Why can we not have a system that recognises residency here as a matter of right, not as a privilege at the whim of the Home Office?

The Secretary of State’s letter said that devolved Administrations support his approach. The letter he referred to from Mike Russell finished with the words that EU citizens

“are our friends, our colleagues and our family and they deserve to stay in the place they have chosen to call home without the insecurity that Brexit has created.”

If the Government agree with that, why do they not get rid of the insecurity right now, and guarantee unconditionally and permanently the rights of all 3 million EU nationals who currently call these islands their home?