Wales politics

Swansea EU citizens rights watchdog planned

EU citizens Image copyright Getty Images

A new body will be set up in Swansea to monitor the rights of EU citizens if the UK leaves with a Brexit deal.

Up to 200 lawyers and legal experts would be based at the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), according to the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

The UK government has promised to set up the body as part of the Brexit deal struck between the UK and the EU.

But there is increasing debate in the Tory leadership contest about leaving the EU without a deal.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 31 October - with or without a deal.

Theresa May's Brexit deal, which was rejected three times by MPs in the House of Commons, includes pledges to protect citizens' rights.

Under the UK government's draft Brexit plans, the IMA would be established to police the rights of the more than 3m EU citizens living in the UK.

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Image caption 8,500 UK government staff are already based in Swansea

The Welsh Secretary said it was an "exciting announcement" that the body would be based in Swansea, adding a further 200 public sector jobs to the already 8,500 UK government civil servants based in the city.

Asked if he could guarantee the body would be established in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Alun Cairns said: "Even in a no-deal situation we would need to protect the rights of EU nationals that are living in the UK because everyone has said that we want a deep and special partnership with the European Union and the only way we can do that is to protect the rights of those EU nationals in a fair and balanced way.

"So, on that basis, this shows that there is the need for an independent body - a powerful organisation that will be based in Swansea as per the agreement that we've got across government."

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Image caption Alun Cairns said a no deal Brexit "needs to be on the table"

In March, the EU rejected calls for an agreement to protect UK and EU citizens' rights abroad in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay, Mr Cairns said it was right that a no-deal Brexit "needs to be on the table" even though he did not want to to be in a "no-deal position".

"But the minute that we remove it that leaves the strength in the hands of the European Commission and that isn't right either," he added.

The Tories suffered a dreadful set of results in last week's European Parliamentary elections as they were pushed in to fifth place in Wales.

Alun Cairns conceded that they "weren't good results at all" and that "many Conservative supporters would've voted for The Brexit Party".

He said: "I think it demonstrated that the country remains equally divided as it was at the time of the referendum.

"Clearly, I think the nation is becoming more polarised, strong results for The Brexit Party and I think that again shows that the demand of the nation to leave the European Union but, to do so in a way that can take people who are more reluctant about leaving with us, demonstrates the need for a deal."

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