Veteran Journalist John Lichfield tweeted the interesting take on the Home Offices decision to stop Freedom of Movement by a retired UK civil servant ‘with extensive knowledge of the British immigration system’.

First published in August 2019.

John Lichfield is a British journalist in Paris. He was Paris correspondent of The Independent for 20 years, and before that Foreign Editor and US correspondent.
• He wrote and shared the following story on Twitter a few weeks ago.

In light of the new draconian migration system announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, I have been asked to tweet the comments of a ‘retired UK civil servant with extensive knowledge of the British immigration system’.

He says: “It’s a joke for the Home Office to say ‘after Brexit the government will introduce a fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from’. They cannot operate efficiently the system they have at present.

“There are a lot of questions to sort out if we leave without a deal on 31 October. I don’t know how many times I have gone on about how useless our immigration system is. The immigration officers themselves are efficient and conscientious people. The system itself is chaotic.

“Will EU nationals be able to go through the same channels at airports as they do at present – i.e. through the ePassport gates? The Americans, Australians, Japanese, etc. are allowed through this way. Why not the French, Germans, Italians, Romanians and Bulgarians, etc?”

“If they aren’t allowed through this channel, there will be enormous queues at the ‘other nationality’ channels as there won’t be enough immigration officers to handle them. If they are allowed through the ePassport channel there will be no check on the purpose of their visit.”

“And there is still no proper immigration check on departure – apart from the need to give/scan passport details when you leave. My understanding is that, although this exists, there is no proper IT system to handle all the comings and goings efficiently.”

“If EU nationals need visas to work and study after 31 October, how will they set up a system to operate it in time? It will involve setting up more immigration staff in EU countries to handle the work – and all of this takes time and legislation (and money!).”

“How will the UK be able to recruit care home staff, farm and food processing workers, hospitality staff, etc. if Eastern Europeans (in particular) are not allowed in automatically to fill these jobs? There won’t be a system in place on 1 November (or for a considerable time thereafter).”

“None of our Ministers (and especially the Prime Minister) have a clue how these things work. They talk vaguely about an “Australian-style skills based” system post-Brexit. Ask any of these Ministers how the Australian system works and I bet they cannot give you a detailed answer.

“For example, the Australian system operates using a highly efficient IT system which has been operating for decades. It takes into account various other factors (for example, family considerations). It will take forever for the UK to devise a similar system.”

“Of course, Boris Johnson will have the answer to all these questions already worked out. Won’t he?”🔷

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 19 August 2019 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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