The Government is getting worried. So far, the passage of the Article 50 bill through Parliament has been relatively smooth. Tomorrow, there’s a chance that could change: peers will debate the issue of what happens to EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. This topic has been something of a political hot potato for the Government ever since Theresa May made it clear she wouldn’t guarantee the rights of the 3.3m EU citizens living in Britain to stay put. The PM’s position is that she doesn’t want to give away a useful bargaining chip, fearing that by doing so, Brits living on the continent will remain in limbo. In the face of heavy fire, this has been a position that the Government has stuck to. Now, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been dispatched to convince peers not to defeat the Government on this issue. In a letter to those in the Lords, she says:
‘As demonstrated by the debate on this issue in the House of Commons, there is absolutely no question of treating EU citizens with anything other than the utmost respect. That’s why we will be making securing their status a priority as soon as we trigger Article 50 and the negotiations begin.’
Rudd goes on to make it clear that the Government is not backing down, telling peers this ‘will remain the Government’s position’, whether they like it or not.
This steadfast approach paid dividends during the Commons debate on the Article 50 bill earlier this month. In the run-up to the vote on a possible amendment guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, there was talk the Government was facing a rebellion. A dozen Tory MPs spoke out on the issue during the debate – interpreted by some as a sign the Government’s slim majority was about to be overturned.