This week marked the agreement between the UK and the EU27 on the first phase of the labyrinthine Brexit negotiations. There’s a long way to go – Churchill’s ‘end of the beginning’ quote comes to mind - but this was a crucial and welcome milestone.
I was particularly pleased for the thousands of EU citizens who have chosen to make their homes in Cheltenham and who I have spoken about in Parliament. They make such a vital contribution – enriching every part of our economy and society. From the Monkscroft Care Home in St Mark’s to Cheltenham General Hospital to the Queen’s Hotel on the Prom they work with great dedication to help make our town the caring and vibrant place it is. I want our EU friends and neighbours to stay, and I even rebelled on the issue last year.
So, to EU nationals in Cheltenham I can now say this: you will have your rights written into UK law. Those rights will be enforced by UK courts and, where appropriate, our courts will pay due regard to relevant European Court of Justice case law. That means you can be confident that rights will be interpreted consistently in the UK and in the EU.
If you have five years of continuous residence at the point we leave the EU, you will be eligible for settled status. And if you have been here for less than five years, you will be able to stay until you reach that five-year threshold.
Your healthcare rights, pension and other benefit provisions will also remain the same as they are today – as indeed will recognition of professional qualifications. If you are a student at UGlos will have your entitlement to a UK European Health Insurance Card protected.
This is an important agreement, and one that will also preserve the rights of British citizens from Cheltenham who have now made their homes in other EU countries.
I welcome that. Human beings are not bargaining chips.