Brexit: Sajid Javid stuns MPs by backing bid to secure EU citizens' rights after no-deal after Theresa May dismissed it

Home secretary blindsided when told prime minister had suggested she would fight the amendment, asking: 'When did you hear that?'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 27 February 2019 12:20 GMT
Sajid Javid says government will back EU citizens amendment

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Sajid Javid has pledged the government will back a move to protect the rights of EU citizens if there is a no-deal Brexit – a day after Theresa May dismissed it.

The home secretary stunned and delighted a committee of MPs by saying there was “nothing” wrong with the amendment, tabled by a Tory MP.

However, he was blindsided when told the government had suggested it would fight the amendment, saying: “When did you hear that? From who.”

When told it had been the prime minister, Mr Javid replied: “Did you – right, ok”, before adding: “I’m perfectly happy with that amendment.”

Tabled by Alberto Costa, a ministerial aide, it is designed to be attached to be attached to the latest Brexit motion being debated by MPs today, amid the continuing crisis over EU withdrawal.

It demands that, even if there is no-deal, the citizens' rights part the withdrawal deal is carved out and approved as a separate treaty, to ensure millions of people are not left high and dry.

When Jeremy Corbyn urged the prime minister, on Tuesday, to accept the amendment, the prime minister suggested it was pointless, because the rights of British ex-pats were a matter for individual EU countries.

Ms May has already promised to protect the 3.2m EU citizens in this country – although they are seeking the stronger guarantee offered by the Costa amendment.

“The EU does not have the legal authority to do a separate deal on citizens’ rights without a new mandate,” the prime minister told MPs.

But Mr Javid, giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee, said the amendment was “trying to find more ways for parliament to give that reassurance, which we both agree is very important”.

He acknowledged it required Brussels to shift its stance, but added: “I think it’s a reasonable question to ask.”

During the evidence session, Mr Javid was criticised over:

* The “shambles” of the settlement scheme for EU citizens, amid fears that many will fail to register by the deadline, which threatened “Windrush all over again”.

* A failure to provide figures for the number of boats attempting to bring migrants across the Channel in recent months.

* His refusal to discuss the case of Shamima Begum, the London teenager who travelled to Syria to join Isis, who was stripped of her citizenship – despite no legal bar on him doing so.

However, Mr Javid did confirm that her baby boy was a British citizen, although he would not be given any assistance to come to the UK from a refugee camp in Syria.

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