1.The Home Office is one of the key government departments involved in delivering Brexit. We are assessing the Home Office’s capacity to meet this challenge in a number of policy areas. We published a report on customs operations in November. We expect to report soon on post-Brexit policing and security cooperation. In this inquiry we have examined the challenges facing the Home Office in delivering immigration services once the UK leaves the European Union.
2.Based on Government announcements so far, new immigration processes are expected first for EU nationals already living in the UK, secondly for those arriving during the transition period and thirdly for the long term once the transition period has ended. However, there is still a serious lack of detail on what the new arrangements will be. We are waiting for the White Paper on immigration that the Home Office originally said would be published in the autumn of 2017. There is now considerable uncertainty about when the White Paper will be published; the Home Secretary has said that it is “likely” to be available before Brexit but that she expected it to be published before the end of this year. Many of the details will also depend on the Government’s negotiations over the transition period and the long-term future relationship with the EU. In the meantime, the Home Office needs to plan for delivery of new arrangements, some of which are due to start later this year and some of which are due to be in place for March 2019. The Home Office has been allocated around £60 million for Brexit contingency planning in the current year, but it is unclear what it is being spent on.
3.Registration and administration arrangements need to change, new IT systems need to be developed, enforcement mechanisms need to adapt, and customs and border arrangements may have to change too. More than three million EU citizens living in the UK, and a further 230,000 EU citizens a year if current levels of immigration persist, may become subject to immigration control.
4.Responsibility for meeting these demands primarily falls to the Department’s three immigration directorates: UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), Immigration Enforcement and Border Force. The three directorates are already engaged in a substantial programme of transformation as they seek to become fully self-funding by 2019–2020.
5.Our inquiry has focused on the capacity of the immigration directorates to respond to the immigration challenges of Brexit while delivering their existing responsibilities effectively and efficiently. We have also considered whether existing procedures and policies could be improved. Our predecessors identified weaknesses and backlogs in the Home Office’s delivery of immigration services over many years. Simply applying existing systems and processes to Brexit will not work. Instead the Home Office should use this as an opportunity to reassess its wider systems and approach.
6.During the inquiry, we heard oral evidence from the then Minister for Immigration, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP and the Home Office Second Permanent Secretary, the current and former Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration, and a former director general of the Immigration Enforcement directorate; and immigration lawyers and unions representing immigration staff. We also received many written submissions. We are grateful to all those who have contributed to this inquiry.
7.The delay to the proposed White Paper has caused anxiety for EU citizens in the UK, uncertainty for UK businesses, and concern in Parliament about the consistency with which the Government is approaching post-Brexit immigration policy. It is extremely regrettable that the Government has delayed the White Paper and that there now appears to be no clear timetable for it to be published at all, or for the promised Immigration Bill. We recognise the Government’s desire to wait for evidence from the Migration Advisory Committee before setting out proposals for the long term. We also recognise that the details of the transition arrangements will be subject to negotiations. Nevertheless, 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.
8.The Government should immediately set out more detailed plans for the registration of EU nationals already here, and its objectives for the negotiations over the transition period. Failure to do so soon will deny Parliament and those affected the opportunity to scrutinise or debate the Government’s plans before they are finalised with the EU, despite the fact that this is such a crucial policy area. That is unacceptable. It will also make it impossible for UKVI, Border Force and Immigration Enforcement to do their job properly. As we set out in this report, these directorates are already overstretched and face significant challenges in delivering new policies on Brexit. Expecting them to make late changes without time to plan or consult puts them in an impossible position.
1 First Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2017–19, , HC 540. See also Government Response, Fourth Special Report, HC 754
2 BBC, Today Programme, 6 February 2018
3 Answer to Written Question , 30 November 2017
4 HM Treasury and Home Office press release, , 25 November 2015
9 February 2018