The Home Affairs Select Committee found that the lack of clarity could cause chaos
The Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee said lack of clarity about post-Brexit rules was causing uncertainty for immigration authorities, businesses, EU citizens in the UK and their employers.
Lack of staff also meant already over-stretched border agencies could struggle with extra workloads and rushed changes could undermine UK security, said the MPs.
Committee chairman Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP and former shadow Home Secretary, said: “Government drift is putting everyone in an impossible position. Decisions and announcements keep being delayed. Crucial details are still lacking.
“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.
“We need urgent clarity about plans for next year so that Parliament can scrutinise them and so that families, employers and officials can plan.
Yvette Cooper warned that government ‘dithering’ could cause problems
We need urgent clarity about plans for next year so that Parliament can scrutinise them
“The lack of detail with just over a year to go is irresponsible.
“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.”
The report published today comes after a further delay in the Home Office’s White Paper setting out immigration policy after Brexit day on March 29 next year.
It was due last autumn but may not now appear until the end of this year.
The MPs said “completely unacceptable” delay could both make it impossible to deliver new systems on time and “distract” immigration authorities from their vital wider work.
They called for urgent clarification including whether there will be separate registration systems for EU nationals who arrive before and after Brexit day.
The Government understandably wanted to wait for evidence from its Migration Advisory Committee and some details must await agreement this spring with the EU on the terms of the transition phase, said the MPs.
But there were issues that could be settled without further negotiation.
“The Government has a responsibility to Parliament, the public, EU citizens who will be affected, employers and the public servants it expects to deliver the policies to provide some urgent clarity on its intentions.”
The Home Office delay could distract immigration authorities
Visa and border agencies were already overstretched and extra staff being recruited were unlikely to be enough to meet current pressures let alone the “huge challenge” of any new rules introduced next year.
“We urge the Government to be realistic about the current limitations in the way Border Force operates and the lack of time left to make substantial changes to the border arrangements for either goods or people before March 2019 without significant disruption, problems or security challenges.
“Rushed and under-resourced changes will put border security at risk.”
The committee noted concern from the Airport Operators Association that members were being asked when redeveloping terminals to make allowance for longer queues, costing them millions with no certainty the space would be needed.
It also called for an assessment of whether a drop in skilled workers from the EU had prompted higher UK employer demand for workers from elsewhere, in which case limits on non-Europeans should be reviewed.
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Commenting on the report, Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “With the best will in the world, the Government can hardly finalise arrangements while negotiations continue. What is important at this stage is to ensure the necessary resources are in place.”
Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory said: “One of the big challenges the Government faces is making sure that people know about the need to register and have the right documentation ready.
“Many people may not realise that they have to apply for settled status. It will take time to reach these people, so the sooner there is clarity on the policy, the more smoothly the process is likely to go.”
Janet Davies, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The Government must be louder and clearer in reassuring the tens of thousands of EU nurses and carers working across the UK, not just on their right to stay but how desperately the NHS and social care system needs them.”
Royal College of Nursing head Janet Davies said the government must be direct with EU nurses
“In some hospitals one in five NHS workers have EU passports. If there is a Brexit cliff-edge in migration, it will be the NHS going over it.”
Dr Andrew Dearden, of the British Medical Association, said: “Our own research has shown that many EU doctors are either considering or actively planning to leave the UK because of anxiety around Brexit, which is a cause for real concern.
“Many have dedicated years of service to the NHS and medical research in the UK, and without them our health service will not be able to cope.
“We urgently need further clarity from the government on exactly what the future holds for EU citizens and their families living in the UK, as well as for those who arrive during the transitional period, to end the uncertainty and insecurity that could see many voting with their feet.”