Status of EU nationals in the UK
Several constituents have contacted me recently about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK.
I quite understand the anxiety being felt and would like to reassure you that we are all agreed in Westminster that securing the rights of EU citizens who live in the UK are of the highest priority and should be agreed at an early stage. EU nationals clearly make an invaluable contribution to our economy, our society and our daily lives.
As you may be aware, the Prime Minister has been clear that the Government wants to guarantee the status of EU nationals in the UK as soon as it can. In a statement on 6 February the Prime Minister said:
But as I have said before, EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our economy and our society and without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker.
So we will make securing the reciprocal agreement that will guarantee their status a priority as soon as the negotiations begin, and I want to see this agreed as soon as possible because that is in everyone’s interests.
On the same day, during the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill debate, the Department for Exiting the EU Minister said:
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, most recently this very afternoon, securing the status of EU nationals is one of the foremost priorities of this Government. We have stood ready to reach an agreement from the beginning, because it is not in anyone’s interest to allow any uncertainty over this issue to continue.
I fully appreciate concerns about how long this is taking to resolve, but I can assure you that the Government remains committed to providing reassurance to EU nationals here, and UK nationals in the EU, as a priority once Article 50 has been triggered. Some EU countries have insisted that there can be 'no negotiation before notification', and therefore that nothing can be settled until Article 50 is triggered.
We have told other EU leaders that we can only offer EU nationals here this certainty as long as this is reciprocated for British citizens in other EU countries. Until the UK leaves the EU, EU citizens will continue to enjoy their rights under EU law to travel to, and live in, the UK. These rights do not fall away when we leave the EU and the Government is certain both that existing rights are guaranteed and that reciprocal rights are at the very top of the PM’s agenda.
I also attach a recent letter from the Home Secretary which I hope is helpful:
6 February 2017
Re: European citizens in the UK
European citizens already resident in the UK make a vital contribution both to our economy and our society, and a number of colleagues have spoken to me recently seeking assurances about their immigration status when we leave the EU.
There is absolutely no question of treating EU citizens with anything other than the utmost respect, recognising the contribution they make not just to our economy, but also working in crucial public services like the NHS. Without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker. That’s why we will be making securing their status, as well as that of British nationals in the EU, a priority as soon as we trigger Article 50 and the negotiations begin.
I know some colleagues are concerned about how long this might take to resolve, but the Government remains committed to providing reassurance to EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU as a priority once Article 50 has been triggered. The hold-up is less an issue of principle than one of timing with a few EU countries insisting there can be 'no negotiation before notification', and therefore that nothing can be settled until Article 50 is triggered.
But I’d also like to reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear opportunity to debate and vote on this issue in the future. The Great Repeal Bill will not change our immigration system. This will be done through a separate Immigration Bill and subsequent secondary legislation so nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether already resident in the UK or moving from the EU, without Parliament’s approval.
I’ve always been clear that after we leave the European Union we will have an immigration system that supports our economy and protects our public services, and that should mean securing the rights of EU citizens already here, as well as establishing a new immigration system for new arrivals from the EU once we have left.
But this isn’t just about ensuring British businesses and our public sector have access to the right workers, we owe it to those many European citizens who have contributed so much to this country to resolve this issue as soon as possible and give them the security they need to continue to contribute to this country.
I hope this is useful and I am of course happy to meet with any colleagues with further concerns.