House of Lords Debates Position Of EU Citizens Post Brexit
The House of Lords Debate of 24 October 2016 outlines some of the very legitimate concerns of the Lords as to what will happen to EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals elsewhere in the EU. The following questions were posed to the Minister of State for the Home Office, and received little by way of response:
Lord Dubs: My Lords, would it not show that we are still good Europeans if we gave an assurance to all EU citizens living in this country, regardless of Article 50 or whatever, that they are welcome to stay here on the same rights as they have had up to now?
Lord Lexden: Do the Government intend to seek specific healthcare agreements with members of the European Union? This is a matter of great importance to British citizens, particularly the older ones, living in other EU states.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: Is not the blunt reality of the situation that those people who have settled in the United Kingdom, as well as our people who have settled in the 27 other countries, did so on the unequivocal understanding that their rights would be respected in perpetuity, and that to allow dubiety to exist now is both a breach of a solemn word of honour and indeed conduct unworthy of the highest standards of international comity?
Lord Rosser: Nearly 3,000 Britons applied for citizenship in 18 European countries over the first eight months of this year, according to reports in the media—a 250% increase on the figures for 2015. That suggests that the Government’s stance is not having a helpful impact on our citizens living abroad, let alone on EU citizens living in this country. Is it really, in the light of the Government’s answer just now, the Government’s position that they have no idea for how long the current uncertainty, affecting millions of people, will be allowed to continue?
Lord Judd: Would the Minister not agree that many of these people [EU nationals] are making a serious and profound contribution to the well-being of this country? They are to be regarded with dignity. Will she make it absolutely clear that in no way do the Government as a whole endorse the concept that they are bargaining chips?
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is false reassurance being given to EU nationals who have been here for five years? They are told that they are fine, but my understanding is that their rights are under EU law and, presumably, would not persist beyond our exit, so they would have to translate that into domestic law through something like indefinite leave to remain. Can the Minister confirm that that is the case?
The questions show some of the concerns the Lords have in relation to EU nationals in the UK, even those who have already acquired the right of permanent residence. Sadly there is currently no guarantee that any of the current rights of EU nationals to reside in the UK, or UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, will be respected once the UK leaves the EU.
Making applications for registration certificates, residence cards, documents certifying permanent residence and permanent residence cards remains sensible for those exercising Treaty rights and their family members. Applying for indefinite leave to remain under the Immigration Rules may be an option for some, and naturalising as a British citizen may also be an option, though this may have consequences for family members so not something which should be done without seeking legal advice.
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