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Amendment 34

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 15th January 2020.

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Lord Fox:

Moved by Lord Fox

34: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—“Mobility frameworkIt is an objective of Her Majesty’s Government to take all necessary steps to secure an agreement within the framework of the future relationship of the United Kingdom and the EU which includes a mobility framework that enables all UK and EU citizens to exercise the same reciprocal rights to work, live and study, including the ability while resident in one state to work with ease across borders.”Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause would require the Government to seek reciprocal rights for UK and EU citizens to work, live and study.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank my noble friend Lady Ludford and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for their support.

Earlier the Minister spoke about the teams of people working hard on drafting legislation, so if the Government felt moved to accept the spirit, if not the content, of this amendment then the drafting of the immigration Bill may be made simpler.

The amendment essentially reproduces an amendment to the Trade Bill which was passed in your Lordships’ House. As your Lordships will remember, it never went any further because it was never put in the next stage to the other place. With that in mind I shall keep my comments to a relative minimum. I beg noble Lords’ indulgence as I shall talk a little about some of the statistics that I related to that amendment last time. If we look at the statistics about economic migrants from the Migration Advisory Committee in autumn 2018, it found that migrants had little or no impact on the overall employment or unemployment of the UK-born workforce. Migration was not a detriment to the wages of UK-born workers. The MAC noted that migrants had a positive effect on productivity and innovation and that EEA migrants contributed more than they consumed in health services and social care.

If nothing else, I am moving this amendment to ask the Government where they think they are going to get the workforce to meet the targets that we saw in the Queen’s Speech. By their own admission, those Bills and their targets are ambitious. They will take a lot of people. Simply looking at the NHS, social care and the provision of universal fibre and broadband, those take an awful lot of people. The level of immigration has been cited as one of the reasons why people have become disaffected with government and the United Kingdom, but the MAC figures refute the reality behind that. What has been behind that is that immigration has been used by people. Coupled with chronic political neglect in certain areas, the impression that immigration is creating a problem has grown.

I could go on and talk about the stupidity of the Government’s position that wrongly conflates someone’s salary with the contribution they make to the United Kingdom. I could explain that £30,000 in Leominster is a bit different from £30,000 in Westminster, and I could remind Ministers that on their figures, based on the most recent immigration White Paper, the UK would be worse off, with GDP falling by nearly 1%, but perhaps we can go into those details another day.

This afternoon we talked about there being no regression. It is very clear that this is regression. It is regression of UK citizens’ rights. Do not take my word for it. The highly respected European Union Committee of your Lordships’ House puts it clearly:

“While the Political Declaration proposes some mitigations, they will not change this significant restriction upon the freedoms currently enjoyed by UK citizens.”

This Bill not only restrict the freedoms of British citizens but leads to us having fewer good people to do the things we need to do. No sensible country which has successfully drawn on the talent of the whole of the continent would slam the door closed. No country would shut out people whom we need in social care, healthcare and all the other areas. Today’s figures on the success of the British tech start-ups are a direct result of the fact that we have been a magnet for the best people in Europe. The highly successful creative and media industry is about all the people we have been able to attract to this country, many of whom are paid less than £30,000 per annum. Free movement has benefited the whole country. This amendment sets out a means by which the UK can continue to reap those benefits. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 9:15 pm, 15th January 2020

My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment. I wish to say something about services since this amendment in significant respects covers their operation for UK workers living in this country and in Europe. I feel that we should be moving on from making the case to considering the details of the solution, yet services is an area that right through the Brexit debate has not been given the proper attention it has deserved, and continues not to be given it. Services are 80% of our economy, account for 40% of our exports, and most services go to Europe.

This is urgent. We are, for example, already losing large numbers of jobs in tourism in Europe, and Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, referred in May of last year to:

“Creative and tech firms that should be the foundation of our future economy moving their headquarters to Europe.”

This is before the transition period has even started. As I said last year in the debate on a similar amendment to the Trade Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, mentioned, services are the canary in the coal mine. The problem is that the free movement of people is integral to the success of services, because so many individual citizens, including freelancers, not only drive these industries but are in many respects the product itself.

It is not just the financial industries—which the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, who is not in his place, singled out in his reply to my Question last week on this area—but creative, IT, translators, tourism, and many more. I ask the Minister whether any impact analysis has been done on the effect of Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal on our trade in services with the EU. The sense from industry is that unless a mobility framework is put in place, the result is going to be devastating for those industries. As one IT worker put it this week, “A deal without a mobility framework for professionals delivering services in person will mean enforced redundancies and loss of income for thousands of people.”

Many of the sectors that will be affected have many of the same or similar concerns. What consultations have the Government had with relevant sectors to list and compare requirements? How much have they talked to the creative sector, to IT, and so on? There has been a lot of discussion about transparency and consultation today. In many ways it has been the theme, but those working in services currently feel that they have no idea what the Government intend to fight for on their behalf. EU companies do not know either.

A solution needs to be found that neither discourages European employers or clients—as indeed is unfortunately already happening—nor is impractical or costly for UK workers. More fundamentally, even at this stage, the Government need to look more closely at the effect of the loss of free movement on our hugely important services. For their continuing success, UK and, through reciprocity, EU workers urgently need an appropriate mobility framework.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour

My Lords, I want to add a couple of words to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, in his amendment. As far as the NHS is concerned, if the Government do not allow more people to come in and work in a highly labour-intensive industry, then they will not be able to spend the money that they are promising to put into the NHS in a way that is useful to patients. But that is not my main point.

My main point is to emphasise the extent to which there is continual movement between the UK and European countries, as part of big research projects in medicine, science and technology. People can freely move around Europe for six weeks, a month, a week or a weekend, and many of these projects have EU money, which has come to this country to be used to set up and run projects, but not all the work is done here. The work may be done with partners in other parts of the EU, and there is a constant flow of people. If we put barriers in the way of that movement around Europe of expert people—and many are not highly paid professors but PhD students who have come to this country—working on joint research projects, not only for basic research but for translational research, we will get ourselves ostracised. We will not be a partner that people want to play with, because it is difficult for people from other countries to move around Europe as part of those projects. We will cut off our nose to spite our face. We need something like this amendment to ensure that mobility and a mobility framework get the attention that they need for the future.

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who is now not in her place—spoke earlier about our seeking reciprocity with regard to children. I assume that the same is true as regards reciprocity for UK citizens abroad and EU citizens here. Thus far, the Government have singularly failed to negotiate successfully to secure the same rights for UK citizens as they have now to work, live and move across the EU. It is true that they can continue to live and work where they are at the moment at the end of the implementation period, but UK citizens will then lose their current right to move elsewhere across the EU—something that is, as we have just heard, at variance with the right of other EU citizens. Therefore, they will be disadvantaged compared with their fellow workers who are EU citizens already here, be they researchers, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, artistes, mentioned by the noble Earl, translators, interpreters, freelancers or a number of other specialist staff who tend to move around because of the nature of their jobs. Under the agreement so far reached, they will only be able to live, stay and work in one of those 27 countries but will lose their freedom to move elsewhere.

Therefore, it is vital that we raise this matter higher up the Government’s negotiating aims. This is urgent as well as important. It is time that the Government did more to defend their own citizens’ interests rather more robustly than they have succeeded in doing thus far.

Photo of Baroness Ludford Baroness Ludford Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, I just want to add briefly that the wording in the amendment reflects the wording in the White Paper of July 2018 on the future relationship. I do not know whether that White Paper has become “paper non grata” under the present Government but it talked about a framework for mobility providing reciprocal arrangements, which is broadly what the amendment refers to. That is what we want to hear about—a framework for mobility.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, prompted me to think. To the extent that we have EU citizens with settled status, assuming that they do not feel that they have to seek British citizenship, they could be working on a research project based in the UK and, because they will retain their EU citizenship, they will be able to travel around 27 countries. However, the UK citizen may well not be able to do that, so will be second class compared to a work colleague who is an EU citizen and has a passport from one of the EU or EEA countries, unless a mobility framework with reciprocal arrangements and rights encompasses the ability of those UK citizens to work across the EU 27. Therefore, it is relevant to UK citizens living here but of course also highly relevant to UK citizens living in the EU 27. Many face difficulties in getting their residence finalised in an EU country but a lot are also very worried that they are losing their ability to work across borders. The fact is that nothing can be as good as EU free movement. The same applies to the security partnership —nothing is as good as EU membership. Therefore, we are trying to approximate as far as possible what we have at the moment, even though it falls short of that, but a key point is encapsulated in the final words of the amendment, which are:

“including the ability while resident in one state to work with ease across borders.”

My other point concerns pensions, pension uprating and healthcare arrangements, which are absolutely crucial to UK citizens in the EU 27. This is hugely important for the UK economy and for individuals—whether they are EU citizens or, perhaps even more, UK citizens resident here and resident in the EU 27 —who need to be able to move around where their work takes them.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 9:30 pm, 15th January 2020

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Fox, used a few key words when he quoted from the respected committee. This is a regression. This is going backwards for the people of the United Kingdom. Far too often, this has been seen as an issue that concerns people from other parts of Europe coming here. We need to look at this the other way around, and far too little has been discussed about that. When this issue has been discussed, it has often been seen as an economic issue. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, made some powerful arguments about that. But the fact is that this is much more than an economic issue. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, made arguments about the NHS. Of course, we know that if you meet an EU citizen in the NHS, they are far more likely not to be in a queue with you seeking treatment but to be treating you.

I will focus very briefly on young people. There is a principle that young people should not have fewer freedoms and opportunities than their parents. They should be able to live, work and love wherever they want to be. It is a quality issue, because rich, wealthier young people from more privileged backgrounds will always have those options; it will be people from poorer and more disadvantaged backgrounds who will lose those options. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, talked about where we are going. What we are trying to do here—collectively, all of us—is to end up with the least worst Brexit, and the best possible mobility that we can have will ensure the least worst Brexit.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for his amendment and for raising the important subject of a mobility framework. I also thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, my main interlocutors, the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hayter, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for their contributions.

We are all aware that free movement of people between the EU and the UK will end as we leave the European Union. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate—even if they do not necessarily agree—that seeking to mandate the Government to negotiate further free movement provisions goes against our entire approach. As we have previously announced, the Government will be introducing a new points-based immigration system built around the skills and talents that people have, not necessarily based just on where they are from.

I appreciate the desire to secure rights to travel, work, study and live in the EU in the future. We recognise the importance of mobility for economic, social and cultural co-operation, and we committed to agreeing the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom. The political declaration that we have agreed sets out the aspects of mobility that the UK and the EU have committed to discussing in the future-relationship negotiations. These include: providing for visa-free travel for short-term stays; mobility for research, study, training and youth exchanges, and securing mobility for business purposes.

The noble Lord’s inclusion of the right to work across borders is well intentioned, but in our view unnecessary. The agreements that we have reached on citizens’ rights with the EU, EEA/EFTA countries and Switzerland protect the rights of these so-called frontier workers. These are UK nationals who are living in the UK or a member state but are working in another member state, or EU citizens living in the EU and working in the UK. That will take effect at the end of the implementation period.

For example, this will protect an individual who lives in London but works in Paris or Brussels, and vice versa. I hope that I have been able to reassure the noble Lord on this point. However, as we have argued in other amendments, in this situation it is not helpful for Parliament to set a negotiating objective for the Government in statute. This would limit the Government’s flexibility in negotiations and, as I said, the detail of future mobility arrangements with the EU is set out in the political declaration and will be discussed in the next phase of the negotiations.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, raised the important subject of the onward-movement rights of UK nationals in the EU. We recognised at the outset that this was a vital subject for those UK nationals who are living in the EU. I have to tell both noble Baronesses that we tried very hard to get it included in the negotiations, but the EU refused to discuss it in the withdrawal agreement and said that it was an issue to be discussed in the future relationship negotiations—so that is what we will do. I assure noble Lords that we tried very hard to get it included in the negotiations, and it was not for the lack of trying on our side that we were not able to conclude an agreement on that. On that basis, the details of future mobility arrangements will be subject to negotiations in the next phase of the talks.

I hope that I have been able to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Fox, with my response to his amendment—although I suspect that I have not—and that he will feel able to withdraw it.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank the Minister for his response. Frankly, I had not expected a great melding of minds. It is clear that from these Benches, and seemingly from all the other Benches, that we think the Government are wrong on this. The Government of course have a majority and therefore have the right to pursue their wrong-headed policies, but there will be many of us who will continue to remind them of, and take opportunities to change, that wrongness. As time unfolds and the Government begin to attempt to implement a complex points-based system, as they call it, they will find that they have neither the personnel nor the systems to do so quickly, and pretty soon they will find that we are accessing and bringing in at least as many people as we are now, if not more. Personally, I welcome that, but it stands against many of the things that the Government have said in the past. That said, I beg leave at this stage to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.