Peers from the UK’s House of Lords yesterday voted on Amendment 9B to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill at Committee Stage which would make the Government produce proposals within three months of notification for EU citizens legally resident in the UK to have the same rights of residence after Britain leaves the EU.
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The above was debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday 1st March 2017 by Their Noble Lords and Ladies.
For what is normally a sedate chamber in comparison to ‘the other place’, this debate turned out to have one or two rowdy moments, as some of their Noble Lords and Ladies displayed compunction to be heard, and contribute with individual words of wisdom, or adopt on occasion, some uncharacteristic euphemisms, albeit spot on as relevant remarks at the moment in time i.e. May as well be thrown under a bus, etc.
“Fairness” was the key phrase in the excellent summing up by Lord Bridges of Headley, Exiting the EU Minister who was representing the Government.
Brexit negotiations must be fair to all EU citizens living in the UK during the leaving of Europe process and afterwards but also the same should likewise be afforded to UK citizens living in the EU.
Figures were referred to of three million EU citizens presently living in the UK and about 900,000 UK citizens living in the EU.
Earlier various Lords and Ladies made their respective key points:-
Lord Woolf – Crossbencher
Although, both EU and UK citizens are still able to take their respective matters to the Court of Human Rights (whilst the UK was still in the EU during Brexit exiting), it was preferable that such issues be decided by Parliament not Courts.
Lord Strathclyde – Conservative
There are about a million UK Citizens in the EU – ‘this is the wrong time, wrong Bill and wrong action and we should support the rights of the million citizens living in the EU”.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach – Government Chief Whip
Lord Taylor, near the end of this debate, was convinced by the reactions of his fellow Peers to continue (speaking in reaction to his attempts to wind up the proceedings, but was audibly persuaded to continue with the debate), such was the mood of the house. He said there were more Peers waiting to be heard and one could detect a lone voice saying “bursting”.
Lord Kerslake – Crossbencher
Stated that not many would actually want EU citizens in the UK to leave. He declared his own personal interest and went on to say that a quarter of EU Citizens living in the UK were responsible for building new homes. Kings Hospital and various residential homes could not function without EU workers. He remarked that the right thing to do, is the right thing to do.
Many more Noble Lords and Ladies did manage to participate in debate. One could tell the odds were against the Government.
Apparently, the prevailing viewpoint was that the UK should take the moral high ground and confirm safe permanency of residency to EU citizens already living in the UK.
Those opposing this kind of approach presented some key points of their own, in that it would be unfair to the 900,000 UK citizens presently living in the EU as they would have to wait for two years until 27 countries of Europe agreed on terms of Brexit, if indeed they did so that would be unfair to them.
It was quite telling that there was no reciprocal concern shown in that regard. In fact in metaphorical terms this is the Trident issue all over again.
Citizens, whether in the UK or EU it was said, all have rights under EU laws. Those EU citizens in the UK actually have security more than is being spoken about, especially those who have resided in the UK for 5 years. It was then outlined the rights others had.
There are a couple of issues concerning this topic; (1). Who unilaterally concedes something of this nature at the beginning of what may be two years of talks and especially not, should same disadvantage one’s own people; (2). Mrs May publicly offered a reciprocal offer to the European Union but was told nothing could be discussed before Brexit is triggered.
No doubt Mrs May will now negate the request that these amendments be put on the face of the Bill and it will be returned to the Lords.
It was an interesting point to note that Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Labour) apparently had more trust if this proposed, and carried Lords’ Amendment, be put on the face of the Bill thereby, in essence really saying there was no trust in Mrs May’s word on these considerations within negotiations with the EU, yet conversely was tantamount to saying a preferred unilateral high moral ground relinquishing, might actually help in negotiations with Europe (27 Countries) during Britain’s Brexit discussions.
Shades of Chamberlain sadly and having more faith in the Leaders of 27 Countries rather than Mrs May, her own Prime Minister. Anyone in the 27 countries knowing this will already provide Britain with a disadvantage before discussions right there.
Moral high ground should have within it morality to UK citizens residing in Europe and towards one’s own Country and Prime Minster n’est-ce pas?
Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine