Norman Tebbit sparked anger in the House of Lords when he accused peers attempting to protect the rights of EU nationals of “thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners”.
The former Conservative Cabinet minister – renowned as Margaret Thatcher’s attack dog – drew loud gasps as he attacked the bid to give a post-Brexit guarantee to three million EU citizens living in Britain.
“It seems to me the first duty of this Parliament, of the United Kingdom, is to care for the interests of the citizens of this kingdom,” Lord Tebbit said.
“So, if we are to be concerned about the rights of anybody after Brexit to live anywhere on this continent of Europe, it should be concern for the rights of British people to live freely and peacefully in those other parts of Europe.
“Somehow or other, today, we seem to be thinking of nothing but the rights of foreigners.”
Despite the gasps all around him, Lord Tebbit added: “Why is everybody here today so excited about an amendment which looks after foreigners and not the British.”
He insisted Theresa May wanted to reach agreement with other EU leaders on protecting both EU citizens rights – and those of British ex-pats – and that passing the amendment would make it “much more difficult in getting to that solution”.
The outburst came as the Lords voted to insert a clause in Theresa May's Bill to trigger Article 50 to give EU citizens already in the UK full rights to live and work here after Brexit.
The Government will have to take the amendment back to the Commons to overturn it.
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