Documents considered by the Committee on 27 June 2018 Contents

7Preventing document fraud and identity theft

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation on strengthening the security of identity cards of EU citizens and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their family members exercising their right of free movement

Legal base

Article 21(2) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Home Office

Document Number

(39646), 8175/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 212

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

7.1Twenty-six EU Member States issue identity cards to their nationals. These can be used instead of a passport to travel within the EU as well as to enter the EU from a third (non-EU) country. EU citizens who are not nationals of the Member State in which they live (“mobile EU citizens”) are entitled to obtain a permanent residence document after five years of continuous lawful residence. Family members of mobile EU citizens who are not themselves EU citizens must obtain a residence card to prove that they have a right to live in the host Member State. These residence documents cannot be used as travel documents, but a residence card used with a passport gives a third country family member the right to enter the EU without a visa when accompanying or joining an EU citizen. Given this connection with rights conferred on EU citizens and their families under the EU Free Movement Directive,65 the Commission considers that identity cards and residence documents “have an intrinsic European dimension” and are also “a key element in the fight against terrorism and organised crime”—many of the EU’s security measures, such as enhanced checks at the EU’s external border, depend on secure travel and identity documents.66

7.2The proposed Regulation is intended to make national identity cards and residence documents issued by Member States less susceptible to falsification and identity fraud, close security gaps within the EU and create the trust needed to underpin free movement. It would apply to all Member States but the Commission makes clear that the proposal would not require them to introduce identity cards where they are not already provided for in national law, nor would it introduce a uniform EU identity card.67 Identity cards and residence cards issued to the family members of mobile EU citizens that do not meet the new standards would be phased out over a five-year period (two years for the least secure documents). The Commission envisages that the proposed Regulation would apply in Member States 12 months after the date on which it enters into force.68

7.3In her Explanatory Memorandum of 10 May, the Immigration Minister (Caroline Nokes) accepted that better document security would yield “direct savings and a reduced administrative burden for citizens and their family members, public administrations and public and private service operators”, as well as contributing to a reduction in document fraud and identity theft and improved security within the EU and at its external borders. She confirmed that the proposed new requirements for national identity cards would not apply to the UK as the UK does not issue identity cards, but said they would apply to Gibraltar’s identity card system. The Government was “exploring what this might entail for Gibraltar” as Gibraltar’s identity cards do not comply with the new standards proposed by the Commission. These are based on standards developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on machine-readable travel documents and biometric identifiers. The Minister indicated that “the soonest the Regulation as drafted could be operational is late 2019, with non-compliant documents phased out by late 2024”.

7.4In our Report agreed on 23 May, we noted that the UK had a clear interest in ensuring that national identity cards were as secure as possible, even after Brexit, as EU citizens whose rights are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement would retain the right to use their national identity cards to enter and leave the UK long after the UK had ceased to be a member of the EU. We asked the Minister:

7.5We also requested further information on the Government of Gibraltar’s position on the proposed Regulation, including its assessment of the impact that issuing non-compliant identity cards after 2025 would have on movement across the Spain/Gibraltar border.

7.6In her letter of 15 June, the Minister says that “modern biometric national identity cards which meet, or exceed, minimum ICAO recommendations can be as secure as a biometric passport”. However, not all national identity cards meet ICAO standards. Whilst the counterfeiting of a passport may involve “a higher volume of work” than for an identity card, she considers that identity cards can contain “numerous security features within a small area making them difficult to counterfeit effectively”.

7.7The Minister notes that the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement envisages a post-exit transition/implementation period lasting until 31 December 2020. During this period, there would be no change to the current requirements concerning the use of travel documents by EU citizens, UK nationals and their family members and so no need to differentiate between EU citizens entitled to travel to and from the UK with a national identity card and those required to produce a passport. The right to travel to and from the UK with a national identity card would continue for a further five years (post-transition) for EU citizens who have exercised free movement rights and are covered by Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens’ Rights.69 Once the further five-year period has ended (in December 2025), the UK and the EU27 can refuse to accept as travel documents identity cards which do not include a chip complying with ICAO standards on biometric identification. As a consequence:

“In terms of travel documents used for entry and exit, there will be no impact on the UK and Gibraltar during the implementation period and for those covered by the Withdrawal Agreement for at least five years afterwards.”

7.8The Minister adds that “a decision on identity cards in relation to those not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement is yet to be made”. She says that the impact on Gibraltar is still under consideration and undertakes to provide further information “when available”.

7.9The Minister is unable, at this stage, to tell us whether the proposed Regulation would necessitate changes to the UK’s Biometric Residence Permit when issued to third country family members of EU citizens—this will depend on the outcome of discussions with the EU on the UK’s continued participation in EU measures establishing a uniform format for residence permits. She adds, however, that “any replacement will have comparative (sic) levels of security to prevent fraudulent abuse”.

7.10Finally, the Minister confirms that the Regulation (if adopted) would cease to apply at the end of the transition/implementation period envisaged in the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement and would not continue during a further six-month “grace period” referred to in her Explanatory Memorandum.

Our Conclusions

7.11It is disappointing that the Minister is unable to provide any information on the Government of Gibraltar’s position on the proposed Regulation, or an assessment of the likely impact of the proposal on movement across the Spain/Gibraltar border when the new requirements are expected to take effect—likely to be late 2019, with a maximum five-year phasing-in period for ICAO-compliant biometric identity cards. We expect her to provide this information before the proposed Regulation is brought to the Council for a political agreement, general approach or approval of a negotiating mandate.

7.12The Minister tells us that, for border control purposes, there will be no need to differentiate between EU citizens who are entitled to use their national identity cards to travel to and from the UK under the terms of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement and those who are not (and will need to produce a passport) “until at least 31 December 2020”. We ask her when she expects the Government to reach a decision on the use of identity cards as travel documents by EU citizens who are not covered by Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement after 2020.

7.13The proposed Regulation would make the collection of biometric information—a facial image and two fingerprints—mandatory for Member States that issue identity cards. Analysis by Statewatch estimates that this would affect almost 85% of the EU’s citizens (excluding the UK and Denmark who do not issue identity cards):

“[…] 175 million of whom would be subject to a new obligation to provide fingerprints for ID cards. The remaining 195 million, who are already under such an obligation according to existing national law, would also be affected by the new measures—once introduced at EU level there would be no way to reverse requirements for fingerprints in ID cards through national measures alone.”70

7.14In her progress reports on negotiations, we ask the Minister to include information on Member States’ reactions to the proposed Regulation, particularly those in which there is currently no obligation to include biometric information in national identity cards.

7.15Pending further information, the proposed Regulation remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation on strengthening the security of identity cards of EU citizens and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their family members exercising their right of free movement: (39646), 8175/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 212.

Background

7.16Our earlier Report listed at the end of this chapter provides a more detailed overview of the proposed Regulation and the Government’s position. In summary, the proposal would:

7.17Under Article 13 of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement, qualifying EU citizens who are lawfully resident in the UK before the end of the post-exit transition/implementation period (31 December 2020) will be entitled to use their national identity cards to travel to and from the UK until at least the end of 2025. After 2025, the UK may stipulate that it will only accept the use of identity cards as travel documents if they comply with ICAO standards on biometric identification.

7.18The right to use an identity card as a travel document after the end of the transition/implementation period does not extend to EU citizens travelling to and from the UK post-2020 who are not covered by Part Two of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens’ Rights.

Previous Committee Reports

Twenty-ninth Report HC 301–xxviii (2017–19), chapter 7 (23 May 2018).


65 See Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

66 See pp 1 and 5 of the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Regulation.

67 See recital (6) of the proposed Regulation.

68 The Regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal.

69 See Article 13 of the draft EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement.

70 See Statewatch Analysis, Fingerprints in identity cards: unnecessary and unjustified.

71 Children under the age of 12 would not be required to give fingerprints.




Published: 3 July 2018