Employers in Britain will have to take more responsibility for enforcing immigration rules after Brexit because the Home Office does not have the manpower to monitor EU migrants as well as those from the rest of the world, experts warn.
Researchers at the Institute for Government think-tank have already suggested that the Home Office may struggle to fulfil its Brexit obligations because of austerity measures imposed under the last government. The department’s staff numbers were cut by 9 per cent between 2010 and 2016, and its day-to-day spending budget by 16 per cent in the past five years. There is due to be a further 5 per cent cut in 2020. The major challenge facing the Home Office will be in extending its oversight from non-EU nationals, who are subject to strict visa rules, to cover EU nationals as well. Continuing the same level of scrutiny would mean a significant increase in workload, since the most recent statistics show that 268,000 EU citizens came to the UK in the past year, compared with 257,000 non-EU citizens. During Theresa May’s time as home secretary, the implementation of visa rules for non-EU migrants was partially “outsourced” to employers, universities and landlords. For example, universities have to monitor student attendance and risk losing the right to admit international students in the case of visa non-compliance. These responsibilities are expected to increase. Explaining the change, Julia Onslow-Cole, head of global immigration at the consultancy PwC, said the Home Office was experiencing “significant budget restraints and resource challenges”.
“Business understands the need for control over immigration and is up for working with government on a phased and realistic approach that meets this need,” she said. “It’s difficult to get away from the fact that stricter controls will need better data about the numbers entering and leaving the UK and more resources to manage the system. “Companies have a role to play, but I’d be concerned if business was expected to do government’s job or foot the bill.” A Home Office spokesperson said: “We said we would use the opportunity of leaving the European Union to take control of our immigration system and we will do exactly that. Our plans will be published in due course.”