The Home Office will not be able to meet the challenges of Brexit without “a considerable increase in resources” over and above its current 6,500 staff, two former senior immigration officials have told MPs.
David Wood, the former head of Home Office immigration enforcement, told MPs at the Commons home affairs select committee, when asked directly by the chair, Yvette Cooper: “With current resources the challenges of Brexit cannot be met, certainly not smoothly.” Wood recalled the recent £100m cut to the UK Borders Agency budget, and warned that it would take at least six months to recruit and train new border officers.
His judgment was supported by John Vine, the former chief inspector of borders and immigration, who told the MPs that a 10% error rate in “hostile environment” cases in which people had been denied bank or building society accounts was “a troubling percentage” and highlighted how complex decisions on immigration had “direct consequences for people living in our communities”.
Vine added that it was not just about recruiting extra staff; they had to have the rights skills and be properly trained if quality error-free decisions were to be made. He warned the select committee that the post-Brexit registration of 3.6 million European Union citizens living in UK had “to be done properly” if they were to continue to feel part of society.
The committee also heard a call from a leading Tory Brexiter MP, Christopher Chope, for the registration of EU nationals in Britain to start immediately using existing EU powers.
Wood told MPs that there was “a vacuum of knowledge” in relation to contingency planning by the Home Office in the event of no deal, but both he and Vine warned that “a considerable increase” in border force staff would be needed to carry out the required customs checks if Britain ended up outside the EU customs union.