Home Office chiefs fear a new immigration system to track EU citizens for the first time will not be ready by March 2019. The alarm comes after Theresa May overruled officials to insist free movements ends on Brexit Day.
The decision means that after March 29, 2019, the Home Office must be able to both register EU citizens already here for permanent residency and separately track new arrivals during the Brexit transition period. Meanwhile Brussels had demanded anyone who arrives in Britain during the transition period – when free movement will effectively continue – be treated exactly the same as people already here, including gaining rights to stay long term.
In the negotiations, Britain has promised anyone who wants to stay will be allowed, subject to the same offer to Britons in Europe. Last year the Home Office managed to issue 164,000 work visas to non-EU nationals. This figure will have to rise to around 400,000 when EU citizens need visas.