Theresa May's Brexit immigration plans are not 'feasible' and could turn into a 'real mess'

  • MPs warn that Theresa May’s post-Brexit immigration plans are in chaos.
  • The cross-party report finds that the Home Office is under-resourced and struggling to cope with the scale of the task.
  • The prime minister has ordered officials to create two entirely new immigration systems for Brexit and the transition.
  • However, the lack of time to implement changes is putting border security at risk, the report warns.
  • “The Home Office will end up in a real mess next year if there isn’t enough time to sort things out,” Committee Chair Yvette Cooper says.

LONDON – The government is not ready to implement a new immigration system in time for Brexit because of an “extremely regrettable” lack of preparation and resources, according to a damning new report published today.

The report, produced by Parliament’s influential Home Affairs Committee, warns Theresa May that the Home Office is being starved of the resources and time it needs to design and implement a new immigration policy in time for Brexit day in March 2019.

Prime Minister May has called for EU citizens arriving in the UK during the proposed near-two year transition period to be treated “differently” to those who arrived before.

However, today’s report says it is simply not “feasible” for a two-tier system to be ready by Brexit day, because the Amber Rudd-led department does not have the sufficient time, staff and resources.

Under May’s plans, the Home Office, which the report says is already “under significant strain” and “in desperate need of greater resources and support,” would be forced to register an additional 230,000 people a year during transition.

The cross-party committee of MPs is concerned that the urgent preparation for this type of system has not begun.

“We would expect key resources to have been allocated by now, recruitment plans to be in progress and the development of necessary IT systems to be underway,” the report says.

“In the absence of early decisions and answers, we do not believe that it is feasible for the Government to establish two smoothly functioning registration schemes (one for existing residents and one for new arrivals after Brexit day) by March 2019.”

Concerns about the changes are reportedly shared inside government. Home Office staff were alarmed by May’s proposal as work on it “had barely begun” and “almost certainly” would not be ready in time, The Times reported at the weekend.

The government’s failure to publish legislation setting out its proposed immigration policy has caused “anxiety” for EU citizens and created damaging uncertainty for British businesses, the report adds.

Border chaos

Yvette CooperPeter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesHome Affairs Committee Chair, Yvette Cooper.

The report warns that the UK’s Border Force does not have the capacity to implement extra checks in time for Brexit.

The government would put border security “at risk” by choosing to diverge from EU customs rules after Brexit, the report claims. This is because agencies tasked with managing the borders do not have the time or resources to prepare for increased checks on people and goods.

“Expecting them to make late changes without time to plan or consult puts them in an impossible position,” the report says.

The report, titled ‘Immigration system unprepared for Brexit,’ advises May and her Cabinet to keep Britain’s customs arrangement with the EU exactly the same during transition, in order to minimise potential chaos on the borders.

“The Government needs to be realistic about the lack of time left to make substantial changes to the border arrangements for either goods or people before March 2019 without significant disruption or security challenges.

“Rushed and under-resourced changes will put border security at risk.”

The report criticises the government for a “serious lack of detail” across its post-Brexit immigration planning, which it warns “will make it impossible for the already overstretched UK Visas and Immigration, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement to do their job properly.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, said the government’s failure to provide more detail was “irresponsible” and urged it provide “urgent answers” as soon as possible.;

“Government drift is putting everyone in an impossible position. Decisions and announcements keep being delayed. Crucial details are still lacking,” the MP Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford said.

“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.”

She added: “We need urgent clarity about both registration and border plans for next year so that Parliament can scrutinise them and so that families, employers and officials can plan.

“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.”

Eloise Todd, CEO of anti-Brexit group Best For Britain, said the report equated to a “political character assassination of both Theresa May and Amber Rudd” and pointed to “incompetence, broken promises and shambolic government.”

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