For watchers of parliamentary process, the current committee stages of the Article 50 Bill are fascinating. Having successfully passed the Commons stage, the Article 50 Bill is now in the House of Lords. Interestingly, it seems to be mainly the Liberal Democrats who are exercising their hostility to this more than most – long committed to House of Lords reform, they were very keen to pump it full of Lib Dem peers after being unceremoniously trounced in the general election.
There will be a process of Parliamentary ping pong as we in the Commons try to get the bill back on track, triggering Article 50 by the end of this month. But as this process progresses, it throws up points that people feel anxious about – one such point being that of the status of EU citizens living in the UK.
One Lords amendment that will be challenged next week is that of giving EU citizens free rein to stay in the UK post Brexit. This is something the government will reject, because it is a wholly inappropriate amendment to this bill.
The prime minster has stated on many occasions that it is the government’s will to find a quick and happy solution to the status of both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. But some are suggesting that the UK should unilaterally offer permanent residency to EU nationals and hope that the EU will do likewise for UK citizens. In essence, they are saying that the British government should not use EU residents in the UK as bargaining chips.
To be honest, I’m not sure the 2 million or so UK residents in the EU would see it that way, but I do completely understand the uncertainty that surrounds many EU nationals living in Wyre Forest, and vice versa, and that is the right thing to do to resolve this as soon as possible.
The problem is nailing down all the issues that go alongside residency – pension status, access to public services, and a whole plethora of other issues that need to be resolved before a final agreement can be made. And none of this can be started before we trigger article 50. So, whilst some like to posture their virtue in the House of Lords, the government really is trying to get on and do the right things for millions of people.