My Lords, we are facing a perverse and peculiar situation. The Government have generously extended the scope of the settlement scheme beyond those exercising EU treaty free movement rights to those simply continuously resident here. Thus, echoing remarks he made in the other place on
“the Government has made it clear we will protect the rights” of EEA citizens
He also said in that letter:
“an EEA citizen or their family member who is resident in the UK at the end of the transition period, but who does not have a right of permanent residence and is not exercising specific free movement rights … will still be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021.”
In that and other sentences in the letter, he kept referring to “those resident here”, with no reference to having to be lawfully resident under the EEA regulations 2016. He affirmed that those people would have the right to rent and the right to work in the six-month period, but without the caveat that my noble friend Lady Hamwee cited from his remarks on
So the Government will apparently protect the rights of all EEA citizens and they want them to stay, but those promises from the Government have not been translated into the text of the grace period SI and in fact they set an obstacle course for the period from January to June next year for those not exercising treaty rights. Yes, they can rent, work and apply to the settlement scheme, but they will not be lawfully resident in those six months. What good is that? When the Immigration Minister said
“we want them to stay”,
he failed to add an honest “but we will make them illegal residents for six months”.
The Government should create new residence rights to apply for six months for all those covered by the withdrawal agreement and eligible to apply for settled status. It is deeply unfair and capricious to lead people to believe that their rights are fully protected until they get settled status when that is not actually the case. The Government could of course just correct that problem by making the test for the grace period SI simple “residence” rather than “lawful residence”.
Thus, my noble friend’s fatal amendment should be supported. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, gave very good reasons for doing so, notwithstanding the rather polemical remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes.
Finally, I would be grateful if the Minister could explain what changes the Government are making on the back of assurances referred to in the European Commission’s report of the recent meeting of the EU-UK joint committee. It says:
“The EU side further sought and received political assurances that under the UK settlement scheme, all EU citizens with residence status will benefit from the same set and level of rights as those guaranteed by the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Can the Minister explain what that paragraph means and what assurances have been given?