Immigration (European Economic Area Nationals) (EU Exit) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve

– in the House of Lords at 5:25 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford

That the draft Order laid before the House on 11 February be approved.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House approves the draft Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Delivering a deal with the EU remains the Government’s priority. We are nevertheless preparing for a range of scenarios. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, the legal default in UK and EU law is that the UK will leave without a deal on 29 March unless something else is agreed.

UK domestic law has given effect to our obligations in the fields of immigration, nationality and asylum arising from our membership of the European Union. The UK has also been subject to directly effective EU law. When we leave the EU, aspects of our legislation and retained direct EU law will fail to operate effectively. They will contain deficiencies if they are not modified or revoked by this instrument.

These regulations make changes to a range of measures in domestic primary and secondary legislation to prevent, remedy or mitigate deficiencies in law arising from the UK’s exit from the EU. They ensure that our statute book operates on exit day if the UK leaves the EU without a deal until new legislation on these issues is commenced.

First, the instrument makes the technical changes required to correct wording in our legislation that describes the UK in terms of our membership of the EU or the European Economic Area. The changes do not alter the effect of the legislation. Similarly, it makes technical amendments to domestic legislation that refers to EU rights that are retained by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Secondly, this instrument revokes relevant retained EU legislation relating to immigration. It also revokes a number of instruments that give effect to the UK’s membership of EU asylum acquis and which will be inoperable on exit. This is because, by leaving the EU, the UK also leaves the asylum acquis. This instrument therefore revokes the Dublin regulation and the Eurodac regulation.

The instrument makes a number of transitional and saving provisions—

Photo of Viscount Waverley Viscount Waverley Crossbench

I think that every Member who has taken an interest in this has been in the Chamber, so the Minister can probably be allowed to continue. That is my view, but other Members may think differently.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I have just taken advice and apparently I cannot do that. Please ignore everything I have just said.

On a day when you have three statutory instruments, an Urgent Question, a Question and a speech to deliver to the LGBT conference, this is what happens. I apologise to noble Lords that I have got the right speeches but in the wrong order. I will sit down for a minute to make sure that I have got the right instrument.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 5:35 pm, 18th March 2019

Take two, my Lords. The Government’s priority is to protect the rights of EEA and Swiss citizens who are already here. Deal or no deal, they will be able to stay and apply to the EU settlement scheme, which will be fully open from 30 March.

Delivering a deal remains the Government’s priority. We are nevertheless preparing for a range of scenarios. In a no-deal scenario, we will end free movement as soon as possible after exit, subject to parliamentary approval of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Once free movement has ended, transitional immigration arrangements will be in place until the new skills-based immigration system is introduced from January 2021. The intention is to minimise disruption at the border and avoid a cliff edge, providing initial continuity for EEA and Swiss citizens and for businesses. The Government announced these arrangements on 28 January.

I make it clear that these transitional arrangements will not apply to EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK before exit. These citizens will be able to apply to secure their status under the EU settlement scheme. Nor will they apply to Irish citizens, who, under common travel area arrangements, will continue to be able to enter and remain in the UK without requiring leave.

Those who are not eligible for the EU settlement scheme will require leave to enter once free movement has ended, and this order provides the mechanism by which that leave to enter will be granted. Such citizens will be granted leave to enter for a period of three months, automatically, upon arrival at the border. This means that they will be able to cross the border much as now, including using e-passport gates. They will not be questioned routinely or have their passport stamped. This leave will allow them to work, study or visit for short periods as we transition to the new skills-based immigration system to be introduced from 2021.

For many individuals, a single three-month period of leave will be sufficient. Others, such as regular business visitors or frontier workers who live in the EU but work in the UK, may wish to come on more than one occasion. The order will enable them to do so by granting leave to enter automatically on each arrival. As now, there will be some EEA and Swiss nationals whom we will not wish to enter the UK—for example, where their presence in the UK is undesirable on criminality or non-conducive grounds. Those who are the subject of exclusion or deportation orders or other specified decisions will not benefit from the automatic leave provisions, and Border Force officers will be able to cancel automatic leave where an individual’s presence in the UK is deemed to be non-conducive. Those who wish to remain for longer than three months would need to apply for European temporary leave before the end of the initial three-month period. This would give them a further 36 months’ leave to remain. These arrangements are a contingency plan, necessary only in a no-deal scenario, to allow us to transition smoothly from the end of free movement to the future skills-based immigration system.

The order also makes changes to support the EU settlement scheme in both a deal and a no-deal scenario. It provides that those granted settled status may be absent from the UK for up to five consecutive years without it lapsing. For Swiss citizens granted settled status or their family members, this period will be up to four consecutive years, in line with the citizens’ rights agreement negotiated with Switzerland. It also ensures that scheme leave granted to a Crown servant, to a permanent member of the British Council who is an EEA or Swiss national or to a member of Her Majesty’s forces will not lapse as a result of an overseas posting. This will also apply to a person with scheme leave accompanying them, or accompanying a British citizen, on such a posting. The order facilitates overseas applications to the scheme and clarifies that scheme applicants will not need to pay the immigration health charge.

These are important measures to support the delivery of the EU settlement scheme and our no-deal contingency plan. I beg to move.