Vara raises concerns for British citizens living in the EU

6th February 2017

Shailesh Vara acknowledges the difficult situation for EU citizens living in the UK whilst their status post-Brexit remains unclear, but highlights the need to simultaneously consider the position of UK nationals living in the EU.

Does my right hon. Friend share my view that if the matter is as simple as some make out—if it is just a question of us making a simple declaration—why have the other 27 countries of the European Union not said that our citizens who are living overseas will be fine, and that there will be no repercussions for them? The fact that those countries will not make that commitment says something, does it not?

It may do, or it may not. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has said, there is no evidence to suggest that a single country would not behave in a good way. But there is absolutely no evidence that they will all behave in a good way; we simply do not know, because we have not yet had that conversation. Until we have had that debate and secured an agreement that similar rights will be granted to British citizens living in other EU countries, we should not move to allow every single EU national who lives here to continue doing so.

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As it happens, the protected status of Stilton cheese prohibits people living in the village of Stilton in my constituency from making it. They researched the cheese and found that it was originally made in the village, but they are prohibited from making it by the protected status to which the hon. Gentleman refers. When we leave the European Union, they will be able to make Stilton cheese in Stilton.

Finally, we get some sign of life from Conservative Members. They are finally interested in the consequences of withdrawing from the European Union. This is an issue that the House should have the opportunity to discuss. Many firms, industries and producers, on both sides of this question, will either benefit or—probably—lose out, as a result of our exiting from the European Union in this way.

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The right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a huge amount of respect, is making a very good point as regards EU nationals; indeed, many colleagues have said likewise. Does he not accept, however, that while we talk about securing the position of EU nationals living in Britain, we as British parliamentarians have a duty to British nationals living overseas—we have a duty to make sure that they, too, are looked after—and that if we secure the rights of foreigners living in this country before British nationals overseas are looked after, we are neglecting our duty?

I gently say to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I have worked in the past, and who I hold in some regard, that, bluntly, it is invidious to play the interests of one group of desperate people off against the interests of another group, and there is a danger of that emerging from what he is saying and the terms in which he puts it. Because as the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, on which I also serve, reminded us, this was the evidence that we heard from British nationals currently living in other parts of the EU; this is what they want us to do, because they see that it is in their interests that we should do this. They see this move as the best, most immediate and speediest way in which their position can be given some degree of certainty.

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The hon. Lady speaks of veto. She will be aware—she mentioned this earlier in her speech—that the Supreme Court was unanimous on the role of the devolved Assemblies and that the decision should be taken by this place. We all agree on consultation, but she cannot possibly be speaking of veto, because if she does so, she is challenging the decision of the Supreme Court.

I am not going to take it personally that the hon. Gentleman was not listening carefully to the beginning of my speech, but if he looks at the record he will find that his worries are unfounded. He also might like to read the amendment that we have tabled and find that he has nothing at all to worry about.

 

The hon. Lady talks about the Prime Minister respecting a decision. Will the hon. Lady respect the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court that the Prime Minister can decide, and that this is the place where we can decide, for the whole of the United Kingdom?

The hon. Gentleman has already made that intervention and was given an answer. Is it his position that the Scotland Act 2016 has no meaning—no value? Is it his position that notwithstanding the terms of the Scotland Act he is going to ignore the wishes of the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved legislatures?

 

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