The EU is 'deeply concerned' by UK's proposal to register EU citizens 'alphabetically'

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  • The European Parliament is “deeply concerned” by a Business Insider report regarding a possible Uk government plan to register EU citizens ahead of Brexit in alphabetical order.
  • Such an approach would be “complicated, arbitrary and could create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for millions of EU citizens already living in limbo,” according to a statement from the Brexit Steering Group of MEPs.
  • The plan to process applicants in alphabetical order, reported on Wednesday by Business Insider, is one of three under consideration inside Theresa May’s government.

LONDON – The European Union is “deeply concerned” that the UK Home Office is considering a plan to process applications for “settled status” by European citizens on an alphabetical basis.

The plan to process applicants in alphabetical order, reported on Wednesday by Business Insider, is one of three proposals said to be under consideration by the Home Office as they attempt to design a system which can cope with an expected flood of applications once the system opens later this year.

A joint statement from the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group – which liaises with chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier – said such an approach would risk being “arbitrary” and create “unnecessary confusion” for the millions of EU citizens living in the UK.

“The European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group (BSG) is deeply concerned by reports that the UK Home Office is considering processing applications for “settled status” by EU citizens on an alphabetical basis,” the MEPs said.

“We believe such an approach would be complicated, arbitrary and could create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for millions of EU citizens already living in limbo.”

“Those at the end of the alphabet may not get their status confirmed until the end of 2020 or later, which would be intolerable and contrary to the spirit of the assurances we have previously received.”

Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering group, told BI: “We need a simple, efficient and fair process, not one that a budget airline would be proud of.”

What is the Home Office’s plan?

Home Office officials believe that the plan to register EU citizens alphabetically could be the least politically sensitive of all those under consideration.

Two alternative plans are also under consideration. One – said to hold “quite a lot of appeal” to officials – would see applicants registered sector by sector. A third option would sort applicants by geographical region.

Both those plans, however, could risk a backlash among those left at the back of the queue.

While banks and other big businesses are pressing the government for a sectoral scheme, one industry source said that a scheme could risk negative headlines if it was seen to favour big business.

The geographical scheme could be complicated and risk a hostile reaction from whichever regions were not selected for processing first, they said, especially if London and the southeast were among the first to be processed.

A source briefed on discussions said early tests of the scheme indicated it was “light touch, simple, and very quick” for most applicants.

“At the moment the grant rate is very high, and it’s actually relatively easy [for applicants],” the person said.

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