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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, notwithstanding the very reasonable sentiments just expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I think that I would be among others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for the way in which he has taken the initiative on this subject. It is becoming increasingly complicated with the approach of the so-called exit day—whatever date that may be in legislation and so on—and, therefore, we need to think very carefully about this. Although this was a long time ago, I recall that the Maastricht treaty bestowed on citizens of each member state individual citizenship as EU citizens, too. It was a solemn and profound moment when that was announced many years ago in 1992, and it was made much of, mostly in the other member states but also in Britain as well. A lot of British citizens who were working abroad were delighted at the idea of being citizens of the European Union as well, which added to their obvious practical freedom of movement, although that was not essential to it.

We have now got to be very careful to make sure that the Government respond to the civilised and reasonable request for them to expand their minds a little bit into thinking about this matter, because it will be quite complicated. There is the question of the Irish Republic’s offer, which has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the special status that may emerge in Northern Ireland, not deliberately, according to the DUP, but accidentally. It is not much to their liking that a special status would be accorded to people there and they would remain individuals citizens of the EU. Is this a matter of collective bestowal of citizenship because of the Maastricht treaty in 1992, or is it now a matter of it being an individual proclivity if the right was there, given that there are exceptions to the idea that you have to be within only one member state to be a citizen and you can apply for citizenship from outside? It therefore may be that the very act of applying for citizenship and continuing to have the protection of the ECJ as individuals because of the bestowal of European citizenship would need to be included in this wide examination. It is a very complicated matter and should not be excluded from people’s mind and, mostly, the Government’s mind. They may be very unwilling to consider these matters, but they need to do so and we are grateful for this amendment and this debate.