Home Office civil servants have warned Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson that its plans to “abolish free movement” overnight for EU citizens on 1 November risks becoming “another Windrush” scandal.
Meanwhile, a group representing EU citizens living and working in the UK, The Three Million, said it would mean extending the Home Office’s infamous “hostile environment” policy to Europeans here and usher in “mass discrimination”.
Under the Common Travel Area Memorandum of Understanding between Britain and Ireland agreed earlier this year Irish citizens would – as things currently stand – be exempted.
The warning of a “handling and reputational risk” is in a Home Office discussion paper for ministers discussing ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations.
Reports say that its “interim” immigration system proposal would be impossible to enforce.
This is because the government and employers would be unable to distinguish new arrivals from those already living and working here.
It expressed “legitimate concerns of another Windrush”.
Reports of the paper say it recommends that free movement should continue until the new immigration system is ready in January 2021 to provide “maximum certainty” to EU citizens and employers.
But the Home Office rejected this and insisted free movement will come to an end on the day Britain leaves the EU, the first of November.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, is drawing up a new option for ending free movement on October 31.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The government rejected the options contained in (that paper) and are going to end free movement on October 31 should we leave without a deal. This will allow us to take back control of our borders.”
The Brexit operations committee, chaired by Michael Gove, met last week to discuss two options for the migration system after October 31.
Under the first, free movement would continue until January 2021 when Mr Johnson’s plans for a points-based system come into force.
EU migrants who come to the UK during the 15-month period would be entitled to apply to stay under the “settled status” scheme.
The Home Office discussion paper states it will be welcomed by EU citizens, employers and universities and help avoid further disruption in a no-deal Brexit.
If free movement is ended overnight migrants would be given “automatic leave” to stay in Britain for three months – but have to apply for temporary leave to remain if they wished to stay for another three years.
They would be subject to criminal record and other security checks.
Campaigners believe that scenario would lead to ‘mass discrimination’ against EU citizens living and working in Britain.
The Three Million group which represents EU citizens living and working in the UK described ending freedom of movement overnight as ‘reckless politics’.
It's been 3 days now since Priti Patel's plan to abruptly end Freedom of Movement has been leaked. In the last two days we have raised major concerns, of which none were appropriately addressed in your latest 'factsheet'
— the3million (@the3million) August 20, 2019
The group said ending freedom of movement would mean “switching on the hostile environment for anyone who cannot prove the right to stay in the UK”.
The group pointed out that while the government is in the process of registering EU citizens currently living in Britain so they can stay past Brexit, hundreds of thousands of people have not been processed.
Posting on Twitter the group said ending freedom of movement abruptly, before all EU citizens in the UK can be issued with a status under the EU Settlement Scheme will create two sets of EU citizens – one set who have the automatic right to live and work and those who arrive after 31 October who haven’t.
It continued: “Those two sets of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to landlords, banks, employers and the NHS.
“How are organisations meant determine which rights those EU citizens in front of them will have?”