My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. When he was a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was a champion of Her Majesty’s realms and territories. I feel that it is shameful that subjects of Her Majesty arriving at Heathrow airport are treated as if they were from any other country in the world. There are no special privileges, nothing whatever, and that is wrong. It is time for us to look at things afresh. He will recall my 2012 United Kingdom Borders Bill, which highlighted this very issue and asked the Government to take action, which, sadly, they have not done so far. I will come back to that.
The truth is that, if we are serious about restoring control of immigration and widening the base of potential future migrants to our country so that our friends from the Commonwealth may again have opportunities to live and work in this country, the EU doctrine of free movement without any control or restriction whatever must end. That would not prevent the UK from agreeing bilateral reciprocal arrangements with other EU nations, or indeed from continuing to accept EU citizens who met the criteria decided by Her Majesty’s Government and who came here, as the vast majority do, to work and contribute to the economy of our nation. Britain would, however, have the opportunity to set the rules in so far as who did and did not come in. Those from Her Majesty’s realms and territories and from the wider Commonwealth would have the greater opportunities that are reserved now only for citizens of the EU.
Surely it makes sense to establish a system with substance and purpose—one that continues to allow the brightest and best from Europe to come to Britain, but no longer alienates or excludes those from places around the world with which Britain has enjoyed much longer and closer historical links. Being a subject from one of Her Majesty’s realms or being from a Commonwealth nation should count for something when looking to visit, work, study or live in the United Kingdom. At the moment, it appears to count for little. That is our fault and we should not be proud of it.
The Commonwealth is an underutilised resource for the United Kingdom. It offers vast opportunities outside the uncertainty, stagnation and turbulence that we have endured over the past decade.