Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Adonis during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Wed 7th Mar 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Adonis
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, if there is to be a commitment to the highest standards of protection of citizens’ rights—I go back to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel—this would presumably include the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. But the Bill suggests that we omit that charter, so can the Minister say what would be the mechanism by which those charter rights would be guaranteed for EU citizens who remain resident in the UK?

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My Lords, Amendments 160 and 170 are in my name and they would prevent regulations being made under Clause 9 if they,

“remove, reduce or … amend the rights of”,

an EU citizen,

“lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on any day before 30 March 2019”,

or until such time as Her Majesty’s Government have signed a reciprocal agreement with the European Union on the rights of citizens post-March 2019.

The issue here is simple. It is about giving legal effect to the assurance, which the Prime Minister has repeatedly given since Article 50 was invoked, that the rights of European citizens who are currently resident in the United Kingdom will be respected. The Prime Minister said in her October 2017 email to EU citizens not only, “I couldn’t be clearer”—actually, most of the Prime Minister’s statements which are not clear begin with “I want to be clear that”. She said she could not be clearer that,

“EU citizens … lawfully in the UK … will be able to stay”.

She also said:

“When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. Nothing could have been further from the truth”.

If nothing could be further from the truth, why has Parliament not been invited by the Government immediately to give legal effect to the rights of EU citizens resident in this country? It is a very simple issue. The reason why it has not happened is precisely that the Government do want to use EU citizens as bargaining chips. Saying that they do not, when all the evidence is that they do, does not, I am afraid, cut the mustard at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, also raised a crucial issue, which I hope the Minister will address. What is to happen to EU citizens who come here during the transition? We all know what the Minister will say: that it all depends upon the agreement. When the Prime Minister brings that agreement down with her tablets of stone, whether that happens in October, November, December or January, it will have to include a precise set of legal commitments on what is to happen in the transition. The only point I make in respect of that, which I hope the Minister might address in his remarks, draws very much on what the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said: that this is a really shabby way of presenting this country abroad.

Let us be clear. People across the world, including people whom we want to work in our National Health Service and make a big contribution to this country, are having to make decisions as we deliberate on whether they can come to this country from the end of March next year. Quite soon, that will be a matter not of months but of days in which they will have to make these decisions.

I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will claim that we are open and that we welcome them coming here. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, made what I thought was an excellent speech in favour of remaining in the European Union because we would embrace all the rights set out in the treaties. How is it that we can look at people straight and say to them, “This is a great place to come and live. We are going to maintain your rights, but even now, we are not prepared to tell you what those rights will be in a year’s time”? This country is presenting a terrible face to the world. Frankly, I am ashamed of the position our Parliament is adopting towards the rights of existing EU citizens, who still do not have those rights enshrined in law, and of those we are seeking to attract to this country from the end of next March.

As the whole Brexit project starts to disintegrate, nothing is undermining its moral foundations more than our inability as a Parliament—and, indeed, the noble and learned Lord’s Government—to give firm legal undertakings in respect of people who are resident in this country and came here in good faith.