In a report by an 11-strong cross-party parliamentary committee published on 14 February, MPs have voiced serious concerns over increasing delays to the British government's white paper outlining plans for a post-Brexit immigration system, claiming it was fueling further anxiety for the three million EU citizens already living in the UK as well as sparking growing uncertainty as to where British businesses will be able to recruit future employees.
The findings by the Commons home affairs committee has raised doubts over the lack of a timetable for critical new rules to be introduced after Britain leaves the European bloc in little over a year's time, describing the situation as being "extremely regrettable" and "unacceptable."
The MPs' committee, chaired by Yvette Cooper, of the Labor party, reported the Home Office was already struggling with "a lack of resources, high turnover of staff and unrealistic workloads" despite £60 million (US$83.2 million) being allocated to meet the new demands. It warned also that inexperience and pressure to meet enormous targets were often resulting in mistakes with "life-changing consequences."
— Jamie Kerr (@jamiejkerr) 14 February 2018
Tip of the Iceberg
In an interview, Professor Iain Begg, professorial research fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political science, fears this could only be the tip of the iceberg as the British government struggles to come to terms with the enormous administrative demands being placed on it as the clock ticks down on the UK's departure from the EU.
"The select committee report adds to the growing evidence of a gulf between the administrative demands of Brexit and the capacity of the UK authorities to cope. Yet it is also an own goal because trying to set up two separate systems is more about internal Conservative Party politics than what makes sense for the country," he told Sputnik.
Professor Begg warned: "This sort of problem is likely to be replicated elsewhere as more becomes known about the ramifications of Brexit."
The immigration white paper — regarded by many MPs as a key document in Brexit discussions and implementation — was initially due to be published last summer. Now there are serious concerns it will not be released until the transition deal is completed, with some even questioning whether it will be completed by the end of the year.
Failure of the @ukhomeoffice to set out plans for post-Brexit registration of EU nationals soon will deny Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise the Government's plans before they are finalised with the EU. That is unacceptable. Read our recommendations: https://t.co/kRu8d53Ct5 pic.twitter.com/4ZCTOx2Sb6— Home Affairs Committee (@CommonsHomeAffs) 14 February 2018
— Home Affairs Committee (@CommonsHomeAffs) 14 February 2018
Out of Time
Such a delay to the Brexit immigration bill, promised in the Queen's speech, will not reach the statute book in time before the three million EU nationals already living in Britain begin registering this autumn.
This has already led, the report states, to fueling needless anxiety and uncertainty among EU nationals and families already working and living in the UK.
In its conclusions, the report says it was not feasible for the Home Office to set up two effective registration schemes by March 2019, the date when the UK will leave the EU. It added the UK's Border Force does not have the capacity to put in place additional checks, particularly if there are also additional customs checks introduced.
The MPs found there was "needless uncertainty" being show to EU nationals planning for their futures here, while businesses and public services were also being disadvantaged from not knowing where they can source staff after Brexit.