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Amendment 2

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 14th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:15 pm, 14th January 2020

My Lords, the amendments that the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Kerslake, and I have laid before us draw attention to, and look to move to and secure a shift to, a declaratory registration system—away from a constitutive application system to an automatic, declaratory system. These amendments demonstrate that there are different ways of going about this, with different levels of detail. However, the principle that such rights are written into primary rather than secondary legislation is critical.

Amendment 2 proposes that EU citizens should not lose their rights to reside if they are legally resident in the UK at the time of Brexit but have not registered for settled or pre-settled status. Labour has always been clear that citizens should not have been used as bargaining chips in the withdrawal negotiations and that the Government kept the question of citizens’ rights open for too long.

The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, asked the Minister whether the Government were mistaken to offer pre-settled status before any reciprocity had been dealt with for British citizens living on the continent. I think the Government were right to do so. We are talking about 3.5 million to possibly 3.8 million people who live, work and play among us. Offering those people reassurances, security and, probably most important, the knowledge that our Government want them to stay in the United Kingdom, rather than be treated as pawns in a political negotiation, was absolutely the right thing to do.