MP’s column: Still European and more post Brexit

Our laws and regulations must be made by people who can be held democratically accountable to the British people.
Sir Edward Leigh MPSir Edward Leigh MP
Sir Edward Leigh MP

Brexit does not mean that we have “left Europe” or that we’re no longer a European country.

We are a European country, but we’re even more than that because of our long-standing friendly links to large, prosperous and free countries overseas like Canada and Australia.

We intend to preserve those friendships and make them even closer than they are already.

One of the countries with which we enjoy some of the friendliest relations is not the other side of the ocean or the planet but right next door.

Ireland and Britain have not always had the happiest of histories together – there’s no escaping that.

The past few decades have seen a real improvement in the relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland just as, even at the height of the Troubles, our peoples remained close.

We all know that many Irish citizens and people of Irish descent live in Britain, but there are also many English, Scots, and Welsh who live in the Republic.

While Ireland remained officially neutral during the Second World War, tens of thousands of Irish men and women came to Britain to sign up for our armed forces, to work in the building trades, and to provide medical assistance to a suffering country as doctors and nurses.

When Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed a law declaring that Irish citizens are not to be considered foreign under British law.

That meant that Irish citizens have the right to come here to live, to work, and to vote in and stand for all our elections – long before the European Union was born.

Happily, Ireland extends the same reciprocity to UK citizens to live, work, and vote in Ireland if they choose to.

As part of the end of the Brexit transition, a bill is currently going through Parliament that ends the automatic right of EU citizens to live in the United Kingdom.

But this bill explicitly makes clear that the pre-existing rights of Irish men and women to live here will not be changed.

Similarly, all EU citizens already living here who have signed up for settled status can remain forever.

Aside from these, automatic rights for EU citizens will end, and decisions on immigration and who comes into this country will be in the hands of Members of Parliament elected by and responsible to the British people.

We are delivering on the promise to take back control.