Earlier this afternoon, in the Article 50 debate, Ed Vaizey dropped a little bit of a clanger. He referred to a letter from the Home Secretary which had been circulated to MPs offering assurances about the rights of EU citizens. Inevitably, Labour and SNP MPs then demanded the letter be lodged in the House of Commons Library for all to see.
Vaizey back-pedalled, speculating that the letter might just have been to him, while Eleanor Laing in the Chair rejected demands for its formal publication on the grounds that it had not been intended “for the information of the whole House”. This, it turns out, was correct – the letter wasn’t sent to all MPs, and indeed I gather it might not even have been sent to all Conservative MPs. Quite how widely the distribution list extended is unknown, but ConservativeHome has received a copy of the letter, which we reproduce below.
At its heart this is a restatement of the Government’s position as previously laid out by the Prime Minister and David Jones. In the passages most relevant to the concerns of some MPs, it confirms that the question of the UK’s immigration policy – and therefore the future rights of EU citizens in this country – will be settled by a separate Immigration Bill. As Stephen Hammond has noted on Twitter, this seems to confirm that the Great Repeal Bill will include copying across current EU immigration law into British law, before any changes are made by Parliament at a later date.
Here is the full text:
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.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP