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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:09 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 1:09 pm, 9th January 2020

Yes, three years.

Through our new clause 4 we tried to offer a way of giving Parliament the role for which we were elected—and it is the role that my hon. Friend describes—without requiring an extension to the transition that is longer than necessary. Some Conservative Members who are not here today expressed sympathy with that approach, but not with our specific formulation, so I hope that this issue will be revisited when the Bill moves to the other place.

The second point that was a key concern to us was citizens’ rights. Colleagues from all Opposition parties set out why we believe that a declaratory system is essential to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to EU citizens during the referendum campaign and subsequently, and to avoid a repeat of Windrush. This came up this morning in Brexit orals. In the Committee debate, I was pleased to get an important clarification from the Government on appeal rights, but I am afraid that I did not find the Minister’s speech on the broader issue of citizens’ rights at all reassuring. In a relatively convoluted argument—which the Secretary of State to a degree repeated this morning at Brexit questions—the Minister attempted to put the blame for the Windrush scandal on the safety net that ensured that victims could seek recourse against the treatment that they endure from immigration legislation and argued that the way to avoid a Windrush scandal for EU citizens was to take away the safety net provided by guaranteeing their rights.

We have already seen that almost half of applicants to the EU settlement scheme have not been granted settled status; they have been granted pre-settled status. Ministers have told us that we should be relaxed about this, claiming that pre-settled status is an automatic pathway to settled status. I am afraid we have every reason to be concerned, because it is not.