David Davis has dismissed the suggestion the British government would deport EU citizens after Brexit.
The landmark European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill giving Theresa May the power to start the UK’s divorce from the EU is due to pass its final parliamentary hurdle later today.
But the government will first move to remove amendments attached to the legislation by the House of Lords which introduce a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final deal with Brussels and guarantees on protections for EU nationals living in Britain.
Davis has said securing the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK is a top priority for the government, but has refused to unilaterally grant them the right to stay until UK citizens in the EU are given the same deal.
Speaking in the Commons today, Davis was pressed by MPs on what would happen if no deal was reached.
SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh asked whether Davis had “given consideration to a deportation process then” given the government’s “bad” track record on planning.
He told her: “I think it is frankly incredible to me that anybody would imagine me, I, of all people, would sign up to a deportation process.”
Davis said he took it as a “moral responsibility” that EU nationals be allowed to stay in the UK and for UK nationals to be allowed to stay in Europe.
And he told MPs that the UK’s immigration rules would not be changed without the “explicit approval” of parliament.
Speculation had mounted that May could trigger Article 50 as soon as tomorrow. However Downing Street today indicated the formal Brexit process was more likely to begin at the end of March.