EU Nationals 'Face Windrush-Style Chaos' Under No-Deal Brexit Plan For Tougher Criminality Border Checks

Critics hit out as No.10 confirms free movement will end on October 31 if no agreement with Brussels.

EU citizens living in the UK could face ‘Windrush’ style chaos under new Boris Johnson plans to impose tighter criminality checks under a no-deal Brexit, campaigners have warned.

European citizens group The3Million hit out after Downing Street confirmed that free movement will end abruptly overnight on October 31 in the event of no agreement with Brussels.

Crucially, the prime minister’s official spokesman revealed that “much tougher” curbs would then immediately be imposed at Britain’s borders.

“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the UK leaves the EU,” she said.

“We will introduce, immediately, much tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK.

“Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed.”

Theresa May’s government had planned to keep current freedom of movement rules in place until 2021.

But it emerged this weekend that home secretary Priti Patel has given officials just eight weeks to find a new system that could be ready the minute the UK quits the EU.

No.10 said that Patel and the PM will “shortly” announce the details of the new plans, which are expected to be enacted through secondary legislation.

But campaigners swiftly pointed out that at least two million EU citizens living in Britain, who still have not been granted settled status, would hit by the changes.

A spokesperson for The3Million told HuffPost UK: “This government is shamefully linking EU citizens to criminality at every turn.

“We demand that the PM delivers on his promises to EU immigrants rather than creating the toxic soil for a large-scale Windrush scandal by treating us as ‘guilty until proven innocent’.”

Under the Windrush scandal, British subjects who lived for years in the UK after arriving from the Caribbean were wrongly detained, deported or denied legal rights as part of an immigration crackdown.

Critics fear that European nationals who travel overseas after October will face new border checks on their return to the UK, and that those with minor criminal offences could be refused entry.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “This irresponsible policy to terminate free EU movement shows a reckless disregard for the welfare and prosperity of people in this country.

“Imposing harsh immigration rules on EU nationals will also directly contradict Boris Johnson’s assurances made to them on the steps of Downing Street. It harms us all if EU workers and their families are treated unfairly.

“Freedom of movement in the EU ensures they can continue to make vital contributions to our public services, including the NHS and to the UK economy as a whole.

“The threat to treat EU citizens settled here as if they may be criminals is a direct product of the government’s aim to crash out with a No Deal Brexit.”

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman Ed Davey said that the government’s plans were “detached from reality” and part of “the never-ending saga of the utter mess they are making of Brexit”.

“Boris Johnson pretends to care about the NHS and other services but his policy to end freedom of movement on October 31 will do damage to your hospital and your local care homes. The NHS is already suffering with staff shortages and the policy will only make these problems worse.

PA Wire/PA Images

“The Home Office has proved time and time again that it is simply not fit for purpose, the idea that it will be able cope with a bureaucratic exercise on this scale after the Windrush scandal is completely untenable.”

The PM has put immigration controls, along with Brexit, crime and the NHS, at the heart of his new premiership, amid expectations that each would be key planks of a snap general election campaign.

“The prime minister has obviously been clear that we want to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system,” his spokeswoman said.

However, it has been assumed that the new system would only kick in after a ‘standstill’ transition period.

Patel’s predecessor Sajid Javid has in the past described the idea of an immediate end to free movement as not “practical” for employers and others, saying: “There will need to be some kind of sensible transition period.”

Only an estimated one million of the three million EU citizens living in the UK have so far secured ‘settled status’ under a Home Office scheme to get them signed up by June 2021. Two million are facing legal limbo in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

No.10 stressed that the settlement scheme had not changed and was a separate issue from the new criminality checks and end to freedom of movement.

One senior Whitehall source suggested it was unlikely there was time to get a new interim system in place for October 31 and the changes in the end ‘may not look a whole lot different’ from that envisaged by the last government.

But they added that the ‘symbolism’ of being seen to act was important: “Ending freedom of movement is an integral part of taking back control.”


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