A cross-party parliamentary report has said delays to a white paper from the government setting out plans for a post-Brexit immigration system are causing further stress and anxiety for EU citizens, and uncertainty for UK businesses.
The report from the home affairs select committee described the lack of a timetable for the critical new immigration rules to be implemented after Brexit as “extremely regrettable” and “unacceptable”. They found that the Home Office is already struggling with “a lack of resources, high turnover of staff and unrealistic workloads”, and raised warnings that inexperience and high pressure to meet targets are leading to mistakes that have “life-changing consequences”.
The findings of the report concluded with a damning verdict on the Home Office’s prospects for completing the task, saying it will soon be impossible for the overstretched department to do their job – which covers immigration enforcement, visas and and border control.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the committee, said:
We need urgent clarity about both registration and border plans for next year so that parliament can scrutinise them and so that families, employers and officials can plan.
The lack of detail with just over a year to go is irresponsible. We recognise that the government needs time to consider long-term changes, but the Home Office urgently needs to set out its intentions for next year.
In response to the report, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka raised the issue of how difficult it currently was for the union’s members in the Home Office, saying during a TV appearance:
Our members are already hard pressed. They already don’t have enough resources.
And they’re often diverted at short notice from one job to another. And if you think about the changes we could see after 2019, we are totally unprepared for them.
He then went further in his response to the report, saying in a press release:
This report highlights the chaos and confusion at the heart of government on Brexit. Whilst six different cabinet ministers make speeches showing six different versions of Brexit, on the ground the lack of organisation is staggering. The staffing situation needs addressing urgently, not enough staff are doing the jobs at our borders now.
We saw a few weeks ago an idea floated within the Home Office for a volunteer border force – this suggestion of a Dad’s Army-type force shows how out of touch the government is. We need properly trained and resourced professionals in place.