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On 29 March 2017, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion tabled by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, the Shadow Spokesperson for Exiting the European Union, calling for the Government to report to the House by the end of the parliamentary session on the progress made towards ensuring that qualifying non-UK European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members are able to retain their fundamental EU-derived rights after the UK has left the EU.

The Government has stated that it wants to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK (estimated to be around 2.8 million people) and that of UK nationals in other EU member states (estimated to be around a million people) as early as it can in the Brexit negotiation process. The Government seeks to do this “through a reciprocal deal with our European partners”, and has said that it has “not proven possible” to resolve this issue before the start of formal Brexit negotiations. However, there have been calls—including from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), the House of Lords European Union Committee and the House of Commons Committee on Exiting the European Union—for the Government to make a unilateral guarantee on the post-Brexit status of EU nationals living in the UK, before beginning to negotiate a deal with the EU on the status of UK nationals living in other EU member states.

Several attempts (ultimately unsuccessful) were made during the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 to introduce amendments to guarantee that the rights of EU/EEA citizens currently living in the UK would continue after Brexit. At committee stage, the House of Lords voted by 358 votes to 256—a majority of 102 and the third largest vote on record in the House of Lords—in favour of such an amendment, but this was later overturned by the House of Commons. This briefing summarises what happened during the passage of the Act in order to provide the background context to Baroness Hayter’s motion.

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