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Home Affairs Committee finds immigration system is unprepared for Brexit

Date of Publication: 
14 February 2018

New report finds systems are under strain and under-resourced and will not cope with challenges Brexit will bring

Home Affairs Committee finds immigration system is unprepared for Brexit

14 February 2018

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has today published an important new report on the challenges facing the Home Office in delivering immigration services once the UK leaves the EU.

You can read the 59-page report here in PDF format or here online.

The report finds that there are serious questions about the Home Office's ability to implement the systems and staffing required to deliver proposed Brexit changes, and it criticises the continued uncertainty over the status of EU nationals.

The Home Affairs Committee is particularly critical of the delays to the Government's immigration white paper, originally scheduled for release last year, but now reportedly put back to at least October. The white paper will contain details of the UK's new immigration system after Brexit.

"We find the Government's delays to the promised White Paper, and the lack of any timetable for resolving questions about registration and transition, to be completely unacceptable. These delays risk not only making it impossible to deliver on time, but also distracting UKVI, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement from their wider vital work on immigration and border security", the report concludes.

The report further concludes: "We have found that many existing processes are under strain, and under-resourced. We were told that pressure on staff in the immigration directorates is considerable, that it is contributing to high turnover rates and that poor decisions are being made as a result. The Home Office is recruiting more staff but we believe that the planned recruitment appears insufficient in scale to alleviate existing burdens let alone provide the resources required to cope with the increased workload and challenge that Brexit will bring.

"We conclude that the Home Office needs rapid action to improve delivery across the existing immigration system in advance of any Brexit changes, urgent clarity about what the Government intends for EEA nationals' registration and immigration, so that it can be scrutinised and debated before implementation, and a serious and properly resourced implementation plan for all three immigration directorates, with a realistic timetable for change."

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP, said: "Government drift is putting everyone in an impossible position. Decisions and announcements keep being delayed. Crucial details are still lacking. There aren't enough resources and staff in place. Our inquiry found that the immigration and border system is already understaffed with significant problems and it will not cope with last minute and under-resourced Brexit changes."

Cooper said that clarity about the new scheme for the registration of EU citizens was urgently needed, and the lack of detail with just over a year to go was irresponsible.

The Home Affairs Committee report stated: "The Government should immediately set out more detailed plans for the registration of EU nationals already here, and its objectives for the negotiations over the transition period. Failure to do so soon will deny Parliament and those affected the opportunity to scrutinise or debate the Government's plans before they are finalised with the EU, despite the fact that this is such a crucial policy area. That is unacceptable. It will also make it impossible for UKVI, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement to do their job properly. As we set out in this report, these directorates are already overstretched and face significant challenges in delivering new policies on Brexit. Expecting them to make late changes without time to plan or consult puts them in an impossible position."

Yvette Cooper added: "The litany of questions that remain over the status of EU citizens is causing needless anxiety and uncertainty, both for EU citizens and their families and for employers who need to plan. Ministers need to provide urgent answers.

"The Government does not seem to appreciate the immense bureaucratic challenge they are facing or how much time and resources they need to plan on Brexit. The Home Office will end up in a real mess next year if there isn't enough time to sort things out."

The Home Office responded to the Home Affairs Committee report in a short blog post here.

The Home Office said: "It is ridiculous to suggest that we are not preparing sufficiently for leaving the EU. It is precisely for this reason that we have already invested £60 million in 2017/18, are recruiting an additional 1,500 staff across the immigration and borders system."

On EU citizens, the Home Office says: "It is wrong to say that there is uncertainty for EU citizens living in the UK. The agreement reached with the EU in December safeguards their rights and enables them to stay in the UK by applying for settled status."

The Home Office added that further details of the application scheme for settled status would be published "in the coming months".