Amendment to the Motion

Part of Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 4:52 pm on 22nd October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Conservative 4:52 pm, 22nd October 2020

My Lords, we have been most fortunate to have had many EU and EEA citizens working in our country for many years. Without them and the services that they have performed, and still do perform, many of our key businesses and public services would be hard pressed.

One of the greatest areas of mutual benefit of our membership of the EU has been the possibility of free movement and the choice made by Europeans to work and live here, and by many UK subjects to work and live in other European countries. Therefore, whatever we can do to alleviate the new pressures on those who wish to continue their lives here is to be welcomed.

I had the privilege of serving as the Immigration Minister in the Home Office for a time in the 1990s. Then, although I was a strong adherent to UK immigration and asylum procedures, I adopted a principle of dealing with cases in a way that we deemed firm but fair. I therefore noted the reference to that principle by the Minister on the immigration Bill yesterday and am glad to see that it has remained in the Home Office psyche ever since.

In dealing with our EU citizens here, we now need rather better mood music. Whatever rules and regulations we need to introduce, such as the three measures before us today, we really must ensure that the new requirements and burdens on those subject to the provisions are operated not only firmly and fairly but, above all, sympathetically, where needed.

I fully recognise that, once the transition period ends, the Government intend to remove the more favourable treatment offered to European citizens over citizens from other parts of the world, but the withdrawal agreement, which we and the EU parties signed, set down clearly the arrangements on which these three measures are based. It gave EU citizens here and UK citizens in Europe certain specific rights and an exceptional status in the short term. On frontier workers, it is mainly of relevance to Irish citizens, who, since July, have required a permit to be here. Recent debates have been to do with the form of that permit. Can my noble friend confirm that this is now a physical document, not merely an electronic notice? The restrictions on rights of entry or residence arise under Article 20 of the withdrawal agreement. Can my noble friend confirm that all decisions on removal are fully appealable?

On the third item, regarding the application deadline and temporary protection, a period of six months is described as a period of grace. This needs clarification in a number of respects. There are contradictions, so can my noble friend assist us in describing precisely the status of an applicant for residence during the period of grace following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020? If leave is not granted by that date, applicants are no longer lawfully resident. What of their rights to healthcare and employment? Will they be protected throughout the grace period? What is the position if a decision on their case has been taken and an appeal is pending? The period of grace must allow for some generosity in the implementation. The applications are for residency, often for people who have been here for years.

Many of us are hoping that the outcome of current negotiations with the EU will include major co-operation areas in the fields of justice and security. As someone who spent many years in the European Parliament helping to put together many provisions which are there to protect us all from terrorism and criminality, I strongly hope that we reach a satisfactory outcome. Without a close arrangement, matters such as those being debated here will be more problematic in cases where some joint action or enforcement is required. The announcement today in the other place of a toughening up of action against EU criminals will be of little use unless the real-time exchange of data between law enforcers and intelligence agencies negotiated and agreed by me and many others over many years is protected and available to us.

These are necessary SIs, but as with so many others they depend on our reaching a friendly accord with the 27 states of Europe and, of course, on proper adherence to the withdrawal agreement in which these specific items are enshrined.