In yesterday’s vote on the Brexit bill peers voted 358 to 256 in order to amend the Brexit bill and sent the bill back to the Commons. They sought to ensure the legal status of EU nationals following the triggering of Article 50 which is scheduled to happen later this month.
The Lords will not allow a Bill to pass through the chamber without a further reading of the Bill in relation to the protection of EU nationals’ rights in the UK. Theresa May had wished to keep the issue of EU nationals’ rights as an issue up for discussion when embarking on talks with the EU over the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. By conceding this point on EU nationals it is thought that she would assert that her negotiating power is weakened. It is expected that this change will be defeated in the Commons however there appears to be a concerted effort to lobby Conservative MPs to back the revision and some notable figures within Government are known to be supportive of the motion- whether such support is vocalised in the form of supporting the proposed amendment to the Bill in the Commons remains to be seen.
If a guarantee is offered to EU nationals this may negatively affect Brits living in the EU; it could conceivably strengthen Theresa May’s hand in Brexit negotiations if favourable terms are offered to EU members first. As a negotiating strategy it is clear that Theresa May’s Government is keen to make as little concessions as possible in advance of talks so that the UK has tactical and strategic superiority and its hands are not tied by any commitments made in advance of crucial negotiations with the EU.
Certainty is welcomed for the EU nationals and those that provide health and social care and those that receive care. EU nationals form 7% of the health and social care sector workforce in the UK and certainty for these workers is important; what is just as important and not yet addressed is the continuing ability for EU workers to continue to work in the UK post the triggering of Article 50. The guarantee for those currently working here would be helpful but the Government needs to ensure the sector is properly staffed by suitably skilled individuals maintaining a channel whereby EU nationals continue to view the UK as a place where they are welcome is something which should be actively and openly encouraged- if only for the hard fact that without them the pressure exerted on the sector would continue to increase. In an age of increased intolerance of that which is foreign common sense should prevail and our European neighbours should be indefinitely assured of their status.