Curbing immigration to be delayed by years, warns report

Safya Khan-Ruf - 04 05 17

The UK will not be able to reduce immigration for “several years” as no immigration system is ready.

That’s according to a new report from The Institute for Government (IfG), a think tank which aims to “increase government effectiveness”. It’s warned that the Brexit promise to restrict free movement could take years to fulfil.

It would be “unfeasible” to create a new system by April 2019, the scheduled date for the UK’s formal departure from the European Union (EU). The report found that the government, employers and landlords would struggle implementing a new immigration system by then.

Courtesy of Airpix (Stubblepatrol)/Flickr

Jill Rutter, IfG Brexit programme director, said: “The political imperative for change in immigration is significant, but so is the administrative challenge. The current process for dealing with permanent residence applications from EU nationals is not fit for purpose, as the government itself acknowledged.”

Theresa May said earlier this year that there could be a transitional phase of free movement after the UK leaves the European Union in Spring 2019.

System struggling

The report also shows the current process for registering EU nationals was “not fit for purpose” and the Home Office could require up to 5,000 extra civil servants to cope with large numbers of applications and appeals.

There are around three million EU nationals living in the UK and around one million UK citizens living abroad. Securing the rights of these groups is important to both sides in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

A senior government figure with knowledge of the negotiating process told The Guardian that the wording echoed the fact that “no one serious in Brussels or in the other key capitals” believed a trade deal would be concluded by 2018.

Joe Owen, IfG researcher and report author, has recommended the current immigration system should be kept in place until a replacement is ready to avoid disruptive changes. “It’s important that the Government avoids making multiple changes and introducing unnecessary disruption and confusion,” he said.

The IfG also called for custom checks for EU citizens at the border to be kept to a minimum “to assuage fears around the impact of a hard border in Ireland.”


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