Free movement for EU citizens will end on day one of a no-deal Brexit, under new Home Office plans – despite warnings of chaos and of people trapped in legal limbo.
Priti Patel, the new hardline home secretary, is pressing for border restrictions to be imposed immediately on 31 October, even though no replacement system is ready, The Independent has been told.
Previously, ministers had intended to delay scrapping free movement until new rules are in place, with a bill stuck in the Commons and fierce rows over what those rules should be.
The Liberal Democrats condemned the acceleration as “brutal”, warning it exposed Ms Patel as being “completely detached from reality”.
And the organisation representing more than 3 million EU citizens in the UK said: “This will open the door to discrimination. There are no systems in place.”
The dramatic shift comes despite the government declining to bring forward the stalled bill which would end free movement under a slower timetable, for fear of a Commons ambush.
Instead, Ms Patel believes she can act through secondary legislation, in a way that would bypass MPs of all parties who would oppose it.
Home Office officials have been sent to Singapore to copy its solution to technical issues, with the home secretary convinced it can be introduced quickly.
But Ed Davey, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson, said: “It is completely detached from reality and is next chapter in the never-ending saga of the utter mess they are making of Brexit.
“What would this mean for EU citizens who have made their home in the UK who have travelled abroad when they try to return? Read more