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Examination of Witness

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Joe Owen:

The second part of your question—the bigger challenge to do with time—is about what happens to EU citizens who arrive after 29 March, on a temporary leave to remain. It is as true on this as it is for huge areas of the Government’s no-deal preparations: there is very little visibility, as to preparedness, in comparison with what would be expected for most major Government projects. In reports from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, for example, there is little information about where Government preparedness is, on a host of no-deal issues. On the policy aspect, you get the sense that the temporary leave to remain is a bit of a Whitehall workaround, given the political incentive to end free movement if we leave without a deal on 29 March, but there are the practical problems of not being able to do much about that until you have registered as many as possible of the EU citizens who were here before 29 March and got a new system up and running. Neither of those things will be true for 30 March, so we have a registration scheme that will exist that will not really be enforced by landlords, businesses and employers in the same way as other parts of the migration system would be.

There is a big question about how that registration scheme will work in practice and what problem it is trying to solve besides saying, “We have ended free movement.” As with settled status, when we switch to a future migration regime, what happens at the back end to all those people who did not apply, for good or bad reasons—they may not have known that they needed to—and are not registered, or who do not then qualify for the future migration system? If that is a big number, will one of the first things that the UK Government do, after their new immigration system is put in place, be to close down bank accounts or start to deport loads of European citizens who came in that period? That would be a bold move.

That links back to how enforcement will work, particularly with the no-deal scenario. I appreciate that that has not necessarily answered your question about the powers in the Bill and the link to that, but it is an important question about how the no-deal scenario would work.