Boris Johnson facing Lords rebellion as Brexit plans hit roadblock – ‘Clock is ticking!’

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Members of the upper chamber will cast a number of votes on protections for EU nationals following the end of the Brexit transition period between the UK and EU on December 31. Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport, is pushing two amendments to the bill, one of which would ensure unaccompanied child refugees throughout the continent will continue to have a legal right to a reunion with families in the UK. A similar pledge had been made by Theresa May when she was Prime Minister but was not included in Mr Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which cleared both the House of Commons and House of Lords at the start of this year.

Lord Dubs is hopeful the provisions can be attached to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.

This aims to end free movement, repeal EU law in relation to immigration and enable the government to implement a new migration system following the end of the Brexit transition period.

The Labour peer told The Independent: “I’m hoping that we can win that on Monday – nobody can guarantee it.

“The Government is fighting very hard against us winning anything. If it gets to the Commons, I’m hoping the Commons will then pass it.”

He added: “This is a very humanitarian position.

“It’s one (family reunions) which in principle the government accepted, but its proposal is such a weak one that this is a much better way of ensuring family reunions.

“Surely it is right that when there are young people who have got relatives here that family reunion must be a basic, basic thing that we should support?”

The Liberal Democrats are throwing their support behind the proposal, which Lord Dubs hopes will “send a signal to the Commons to be brave, bold, and resolute”.

Safe Passage International, which campaigns to help child refugees access legal routes to safety, is also supporting the move.

The organisation’s CEO Beth Gardiner-Smith said: “Boris Johnson promised child refugees a path to safety. He has an opportunity now with this cross-party challenge to the immigration bill to secure it.

“The clock is ticking to the end of the year and unless the government acts now, on 1 January family reunion from Europe will end, shutting the door on safe and legal routes for children to be reunited with family in the UK.

A second amendment from Lord Dubs aims to provide children in care automatic and indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme.

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This would see youngsters avoid “being undocumented because the system isn’t working properly”.

EU nationals currently have to apply for settled status in order to continue to live and work in the UK.

In a further blow to the Prime Minister, the Liberal Democrats are also confident of success with their proposed amendment, which would look to end the indefinite detention of EEA and Swiss nationals in the UK after the transition period.

The amendment has been proposed by Baroness Sally Hamwee, who said: “Locking people up for months on end without giving them any idea how long they’ll be detained – is clearly inhumane. They are not criminals, just human beings seeking sanctuary.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats are determined to amend the Conservative government’s legislation and limit the time an asylum seeker can be detained to a maximum of 28 days.”

A Liberal Democrat source also told The Independent: “No one expects Priti Patel to be compassionate, but they are entitled to expect some efficiency. The fact that this bill does neither means it’s hardly surprising the government is set to lose multiple votes next week.”

The Labour frontbench is also proposing another amendment which would force the Government to commission and independent review into the implications for social care.

This follows several recent warnings of staff shortages triggered by new immigration restrictions in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged to introduce new legislation that would toughen up the asylum system in the biggest overhaul seen in decades.

She said in a speech at the online Conservative Party conference: “Our asylum system is fundamentally broken.

“I will introduce a new system that is firm and fair.

“I will bring forward legislation to deliver on that commitment next year.”

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