UK Government ‘will struggle with no-deal Brexit immigration restrictions’

UK Border patrol

The British Government will not be able to bring in “meaningful restrictions” on the arrival of new EU migrants after a no-deal Brexit, immigration experts have warned.

Employers would be unable to distinguish new arrivals from EU citizens already living in the UK until the settlement scheme – which grants them permission to live and work in the country after Brexit – is concluded at the end of 2020, the Migration Observatory at England’s University of Oxford said.

There would be no way of telling people who previously arrived in the UK – or other EU citizens who have not registered for settled status – apart from those arriving after November 1, the report said.

The observatory’s director Madeleine Sumption said: “Even if the Government knew exactly what it wanted the post-Brexit immigration system to look like, it wouldn’t be possible to implement it immediately after a no-deal Brexit.

“That’s because any new restrictions on EU migration can’t be enforced unless UK employers know which EU citizens have been here for years and which ones arrived post-Brexit and have to comply with the new immigration regime.

“Realistically, the only way to do this is to implement the EU settlement scheme so that EU citizens have had enough time to apply for status before restrictions are imposed.”

The UK’s Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said a “managed Brexit with a transition strategy” was urgently needed to protect the rights of EU citizens already living and working in the UK, to avoid a “potential disaster for businesses”.

The organisation said Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel’s announcement that freedom of movement would end the day after Brexit in the event of no deal “added to growing uncertainty and unease among businesses and EU employees about the potential impact of no deal on jobs and society”.

Tom Hadley, REC’s policy and campaigns director, said: “The Government must stop posturing and urgently develop a transition plan that ensures EU citizens currently working here feel welcomed and can continue to do so from day one after Brexit.

“It is hard to believe that Government continues to leave businesses and EU citizens in the dark, with such little clarity on the biggest questions with just 10 weeks to go.”

The comments came as the Home Office published statistics on the settlement scheme which allows European Union, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens and their relatives to obtain the status they need to remain in the UK after October 31.

The nationalities which had made the highest number of applications so far were Polish (153,980), Romanian (125,500) and Italian (106,100).

Of the 800,000 applications dealt with by June 30, 65% (523,330) were granted full status and 35% (279,950) were granted pre-settled status, which can be granted until someone has lived in the country continuously for five years.

There were 2,010 withdrawn or void applications and 260 which were invalid.

No applications were refused during this period, the Home Office said.

There were more than 107,000 applications from children under 16.

The department said more than 340,000 applications had been received from people living in London. Around a million EU citizens live in the capital, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.

Earlier in the month, Britain’s Home Office said more than a million Europeans had been given permission to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

Home Office and Brexit deputy minister Brandon Lewis said: “We are looking to grant status under the scheme, not to refuse it, and EU citizens and their families have until at least December 31 2020 to make an application.”

The scheme asks applicants to prove their identity, demonstrate they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions.

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