Lords vote to back family rights of returning Britons
The UK’s House of Lords has voted in favour of maintaining family reunification rights of Britons who move back to the UK from EU countries such as France.
The peers voted 312 to 223 in favour of an amendment stating that Britons established in the EU before the end of the Brexit transition period should maintain the right to go back to the UK with EU nationality family members without a means test.
The British in Europe (BiE) coalition of campaign groups, which had lobbied for inclusion of the amendment, says it is delighted with the result, which it said came after "hundreds" of Britons wrote to peers.
It is now calling on the UK government to accept the amendment when it returns to the House of Commons. BiE argues that the UK's plan to subject families coming from the EU to the same rules as those coming from elsewhere in the world, from March 29, 2022, is unfair. It says Britons moved to the EU in good faith under EU free movement rules, expecting to be able to return freely.
BiE co-chair Fiona Godfrey said the coalition first successfully lobbied for inclusion of the amendment in the House of Commons, however it was withdrawn after the government refused to accept it. It was then reintroduced twice during the bill’s progress though the Lords.
Ms Godfrey said: “We are absolutely delighted. It was fantastic to see such strong support – and especially cross-party support. And it was great that Baroness Hamwee refused to withdraw it and took it to a vote.”
She added: “This is all about providing people with choices. After Brexit and now Covid, we all know that life can change fast. You might think now that you will stay in France, or Luxembourg but you might end up having to go back.
“We would like to say thank you to all of our members who had written from their hearts – which you could tell in the debate had really resonated with the House of Lords.
“If people can do that again with MPs, we’re in with a chance.”
Ms Godfrey said she is concerned personally by the issue, as a Briton working in Luxembourg, with a Chilean-German husband.
“Back in the 80s he had a long battle to obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Having gone all of that, there is no way we would have ever left the UK if he had only been Chilean, but because he was German we thought we could take the opportunities that free movement offered.”
Following today’s vote there remains a final reading in the Lords, likely to be next week, but amendments are not removed at that stage. There is no date yet for its return to the Commons for consideration of the amendments.