Lib Dem peer raises rights of Turkish citizens to remain in Britain under the Ankara Agreement in Parliament

The rights of Turkish citizens to remain in the UK under the Ankara Agreement (1963) between Turkey and the EEC were raised in the House of Lords on Monday April 30. The issue formed part of a wider discussion around the rights of EU citizens in Britain whose future remains uncertain due to Brexit.

The Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Smith of Newnham, a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Cambridge, put down a motion requesting the Government to “make provision to maintain, preserve and protect the rights of any citizen of an EU member State who was lawfully resident in the United Kingdom immediately before exit day, and in particular to continue their right to be lawfully resident in the United Kingdom.”

Speaking in the Lords, Baroness Smith also raised questions about the rights of Turkish citizens resident in the UK under the Ankara agreement.

Baroness Smith told the House of Lords: “I am rather keen to raise certain issues and reiterate them yet again in your Lordships’ House for the sake of the millions of EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom whose rights and concerns over the past two years have not been met. They have not been reassured.”

Official Parliamentary portrait of Baroness Smith of Newnham. Photo © Chris McAndrew, 2018. Wikipedia / CC by SA 3.0

“When the matter was first raised there was cross-party agreement that the rights of EU citizens needed to be guaranteed. The only people who disagreed were, initially, Lord Keen, who was speaking on behalf of the Government, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, then Leader of the House. The reasons they spoke against guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens immediately were associated with the fact that the then Home Secretary felt that the rights of EU citizens could not be immediately guaranteed. The then Home Secretary is now the Prime Minister, and it would appear that her views have not changed. The rights of EU citizens, then as now, are seen as bargaining chips in the wider negotiations”.

“Over the past two years we have heard again and again that there is not going to be a problem—that the rights of EU citizens will be assured. Once we have the withdrawal agreement, life will be fine. For many millions of people, however, that does not seem a likely scenario.”

“Altogether there are far more than 3.6 million EU citizens, all of whom are wondering what will happen in the event of no deal. Even if there is a deal, how will people demonstrate that they have the right to be here? What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to give security to those citizens? In particular, in the light of the Windrush debacle, what certainty can the Minister give to those EU citizens who have come to live and work here, that they were wanted?”

“Further, what are the Government doing about the rights of Turkish nationals, who also have rights associated with the Ankara Agreement, which of course we are linked to as a member state of the European Union? Once we leave, what rights will those citizens have?”

Commenting later,  Baroness Smith told  T-VINE Magazine: “I am far from satisfied that the government  intends to defend the rights of EU citizens in the way that provides them with the certainty which they deserve and which they have been promised for nearly two years.

“Like many other peers, I shall keep on making the case of European citizens, whose position has become vulnerable, even though they have done nothing wrong. I certainly intend to table amendments to the Immigration Bill whenever it finally sees the light of day.”


Main photo above: Palace of Westminster, London, Feb. 2007. Photo © Diliff, Wikipedia / CC by SA 2.5