Liam Fox describes EU citizens' post-Brexit rights as negotiating 'card'

Posted On: 
4th October 2016

Liam Fox has said the Government has not offered reassurances that EU citizens already in the UK will be allowed to stay after Brexit because it does not want to give up a negotiating “card”.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox
Credit: 
PA Images

The Government has repeatedly rejected calls to guarantee foreign citizens’ rights, arguing it would be wrong to do so before securing the same arrangements for British nationals living in other member states.

Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary and leading advocate of leaving the EU, told a fringe event at the Conservative conference this evening he wanted a deal that would give EU citizens the right to remain – but that it did not “make sense” to commit to it.

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“On the question of European citizens, again, the Prime Minister has made it very clear: we would like to be able to give a reassurance to EU nationals in the United Kingdom but that depends on reciprocation by other countries.

“I think we would all hope that what we get is a totally open reciprocal agreement where UK citizens in other European countries are free and welcome to stay there, as will those who have already settled in the United Kingdom.

“But again as the Prime Minister has said, to give that away before we get into a negotiation is to hand over one of our main cards in that negotiation and doesn’t necessarily make sense at this point.”

His language has angered pro-EU campaigners, who have accused ministers of using foreign citizens as a ‘bargaining chips’,

Elsewhere at the event, Dr Fox said the British people wanted to stop those who “consume the wealth” of the UK coming to Britain.

“What we’ve said is we want control of our own immigration,” he said.

“And if you ask the British people what they think in general about immigration, they will say ‘people who come to our country and contribute wealth to the country are welcome; people who come to the country and consume the wealth of the country without ever having created anything are a different kettle of fish’. It’s about getting control.”