Natalie Bennett’s speech heard yesterday in the Lords on the rights of EU citizens in the UK – Why it is common sense that the Settled Status scheme should be declaratory and have a physical record.

First published in January 2020.

Baroness Bennett spoke about two cross-party amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that would make the Settled Status scheme declaratory and ensure that successful applicants receive a physical record of their status – something supported by the3million.

My Lords, I support both these amendments. I will begin with the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, from the end of our very long day yesterday:

EU citizens in the United Kingdom are our neighbours, colleagues and workplace friends, and of course we value the contribution they make to the United Kingdom and wish them to remain here.”

I contrast that with a report from 10 October, when the Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, was quoted as saying that EU citizens who do not apply for settled status face deportation.

I ask your Lordships to put yourselves in the shoes of an affected citizen here in the UK, who may have come here quite recently or have been here for many decades, and think about which set of words you will have heard more clearly, which set of words will be affecting your sentiment and understanding of your place in the United Kingdom.

I think everyone knows that what people will be hearing, worrying about and fearing are the words “threatened with deportation”. We are talking about up to 4 million people being affected. The latest figure I have seen is that 2.5 million ​people have applied for settled status. However, as the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, there are also the 1.4 million UK citizens across Europe, for whom reciprocity means that they will be affected by how we treat their fellows here in the UK.

My arguments for these amendments fit into two groups.

First, there are the practical arguments. As many noble Lords have said, to have a physical document will be immensely useful in dealing with landlords and immigration — just knowing that it is in your wallet or purse. There is also the fact that to have a declaratory scheme is far easier and far less daunting. That is a practical benefit. Those are the practical advantages.

But there is also the question of sentiment — sending a message of welcome to our EU and other friends who are part of our communities. I urge noble Lords to back these two amendments, to back the message which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, delivered last night and which the Government say they want to send to these citizens.

Speech given on 14 January 2020 by Natalie Bennett.

Watch the speech:

Baroness Bennett in the House of Lords. /

Share this article now:

[This speech was first published in the Hansard and re-published in PMP Magazine on 15 January 2020. | The author of the speech wrote it in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Screenshot of Baroness Bennett in the House of Lords.)