U.K. Border Force Under Strain as Brexit Looms, Lawmakers Say

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. Border Force is under strain even before the extra workload from Brexit, a panel of lawmakers said, calling on the government to detail its immigration plans as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

A lack of concrete plans for a post-Brexit immigration system is creating anxiety for EU citizens living in the U.K. and uncertainty for businesses who hire them, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee said on Wednesday in an emailed report. It called for “urgent clarity” so that Parliament can adequately scrutinize preparations for Britain’s scheduled departure from the bloc in March 2019.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has yet to spell out how a new immigration system will work after Brexit, and the deadline for the publication of a planned white paper on the topic has slipped. Open questions remain as to how EU citizens who arrive after Brexit but before the end of a planned transition period will be treated, and also whether there will be different rules for EU citizens and those from other nations. 

“Government drift is putting everyone in an impossible position,” Committee Chairman Yvette Cooper said. “Decisions and announcements keep being delayed. Crucial details are still lacking. There aren’t enough resources and staff in place.”

Deadlines Slipping

After saying in October that the government’s white paper on immigration would come before Christmas, Home Secretary Amber Rudd last week said it’ll be published before the end of this year, and after a Migration Advisory Committee report scheduled for September.

“The lack of detail with just over a year to go is irresponsible,” Cooper said. “Will there be one registration scheme or two? Same rules during the transition or not? Extra border checks or not? Are they planning to ask employers to check registration documents? Or landlords? Will the same rules apply for Norway and Iceland as the EU?”

Cooper’s cross-party committee also said:

  • The government has yet to set out crucial details about the registration of current residents
  • U.K. Visas and Immigration won’t be able to cope with establishing two EU registration schemes -- one for current EU residents and one for those who arrived during the transition period -- in time for March 2019

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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