Lord Bilimoria stresses the importance of the 3 million EU citizens working in the UK citing examples such as their contribution to the NHS. He states the Minister cannot confirm how many are currently in the UK and how many of them are here beyond five years and thus eligible to stay under permanent residency rules.

UK Withdrawal from the EU and Potential Withdrawal from the Single Market

26 January 2017

Moved by: Baroness Hayter 

That this House takes note of the impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and potential withdrawal from the single market on the rights of European Union citizens living in this country and the United Kingdom’s future economic requirements. He argues that the Government needs to control the UK’s borders as this lack of knowledge is harming those coming to the UK to study. He further argues a no-deal would be disastrous and concludes by voicing his concerns over the current Government mindset over immigration

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, when the Government lost the case in the Supreme Court, the reason that I thought it was a very good thing for this country was that I believe it was wrong of the Prime Minister and the Government to try to by-pass Parliament in this matter. It is not that I want in any way to delay implementing Article 50—the timing of Article 50, by the way, is a huge negotiating tool and I do not think it was right for the Prime Minister to say we would impose it on a certain date; it is giving away a big part of the negotiation—but, importantly, we are a parliamentary democracy and this Parliament should be involved from day 1. This case has now established that we will be involved from day 1, and the Prime Minister is already U-turning—a White Paper; no White Paper; now we have a White Paper coming and there will be more to come. I am really relieved that this has happened.

We are talking about people—3 million people from the European Union who are over here and working. And in spite of the non-EU workers over here, we have the lowest level of unemployment in our history and the highest level of employment in our history. We need these people. We heard up front from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, how the National Health Service would not function without the foreign workers that we have—160,000 are EU workers—and about the care sector and hospitality industry. Sajid Javid wants to build more houses; 250,000 people from the European Union work in the construction industry. You can go to a restaurant or a hotel anywhere in the country—I was in Bristol yesterday—and of course there are EU staff serving you and working very hard. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, instead of being grateful for this, we are treating these people as bargaining chips.

Can the Minister confirm how many EU citizens there are here exactly and how many of them are here beyond five years and eligible to stay under our permanent residency rules? He cannot give us an answer, because we have removed our exit checks from our borders. We have no control over our borders. If we bring back visible exit checks and check every EU person and non-EU person in and out, we will know who is and who is not here. We will not make assumptions that foreign students overstay, when only a small fraction of them do. As the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, said, our universities are dependent on EU workers. Thirty per cent of academics are foreign and 18% to 20% are from the EU. What happens to all the EU students who might not come because they were reliant on being treated like domestic students and eligible for loans? It is 160,000 students—I am the president of UKCISA and chancellor of the University of Birmingham. We are jeopardising all this and it is seriously dangerous. The Government need to get on and control our borders.

I was with Professor Deepak Malhotra at the Harvard Business School, who is an expert in negotiations. He said that it is very likely that there will be a no-deal scenario—this would be disastrous. His view is that if a deal is going to happen, we need to be creative and we need to be sensitive to the other side. Both sides will have to make concessions. The EU is not trying to punish us. If we look at it from its point of view, it is trying to preserve the Union and keep it together. Smart negotiators know that the goal is not to win but to achieve their objectives. We need to have empathy for the other side.

What really worries me is the mindset of this Government when it comes to immigration—all immigration. It is across the country. This wretched referendum has created race and hate crime that did not exist before. It has unleashed it. It is sad that when the Prime Minister was Home Secretary, she made statements that she wanted foreign students to leave the day they graduated. The Chancellor of the day had to say that it was not Conservative Party or government policy. Amber Rudd wanted companies to list foreign workers. Immediately, there was an outcry in the country. Then a Minister I have never heard of wanted companies to pay £1,000 for every EU worker. This is ridiculous. It shows the mindset of the Government—we have to get out of this mindset. If we are going to get through this negotiation, it must be in the best interests of this country that we treat with gratitude the 3 million EU workers who are here and who have benefited our country and helped to make us the fifth—or sixth—largest economy in the world.

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