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A new report published by the Institute for Government (IfG) has revealed that the post-Brexit immigration system won’t be ready for the 2019 deadline. This means that we can expect to see freedom of movement for EU and EEA nationals continue after the Brexit deadline while the Home Office establishes a new system for handling immigration applications. In order to avoid having an impact on the UK labour market, allowances will need to be made to allow workers to continue to come to the UK.
For Leave campaigners, gaining control of immigration was a central policy in the debate. Many voters sided with the Leave campaign on the basis that they wanted the UK to take back control of its borders. This latest report is likely to come as bad news to those who voted for Brexit for immigration reasons. The report also highlighted problems with the proposed system for registering EU citizens currently living in the UK, describing it as “not fit for purpose”. At present, EU and EEA nationals have the option to apply for EEA PR (permanent residency), but the Home Office website is encouraging applicants to sign up for email updates instead.
The report suggests that up to 5000 more Home Office staff would be needed in order to be able to process residency applications under existing “levels of scrutiny”. The report goes on to say that the government needs to recognise that a new immigration regime will not be ready for the 2019 deadline. The report also suggests the government should avoid making any changes until the new policy is ready to avoid “disruption to labour markets and administrative burdens”.
The report concludes that Brexit is “an opportunity to design an immigration system that is both effective for enforcement and simpler for the individuals and organisations involved.” At present, it isn’t clear what form this system will take, and who will be responsible for implementing it. The report predicts that new legislation won’t make its way through parliament until spring 2018. The report author identifies the need to keep the immigration bill narrow in scope so as to allow it to pass through parliament quickly, but not so limited that multiple amendments are required further down the line.
And finally, the timescale on which this all takes place will be inextricably tied to the negotiating process. The report highlights the following: “If the Government chooses to act unilaterally on policy decisions, the new system could be in place in the months after Brexit, but if immigration features heavily in negotiations, it will be a matter of years.”