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Home Office compared to budget airline over EU citizen registration plan

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Plans being considered by Home Secretary Sajid Javid about how to register EU citizens have been derided (Getty)

The Home Office has been accused of acting like a budget airline after it emerged it is considering registering EU citizens after Brexit…according to alphabetical order.

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt made the comparison today in response to reports about the prospect for the completely arbitrary process which could leave some waiting over two years for confirmation they can remain in the country.

He said it would “create uncertainty and confusion” and called on the UK government to adopt a “simple, efficient & fair process, not one a budget airline would be proud of.”

There are currently around three million EU citizens living in the UK. Those who have been living in the UK for five years or more by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for ‘settled status.’

The Home Office has announced that registration will open later this year but has so far released few details of how the system will work.

It was reported this week by Business Insider that the department is considering processing applications based on the first letter of their surname.

That is one of three options under consideration but seen as the least politically sensitive. The others are to process applications by economic sector or region.

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A source told the website the scheme would be “light touch, simple and very quick.”

But the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, a cross-party group of six MEPs led by Verhofstadt, said it was “deeply concerned” by the plan to register citizens alphabetically.

“We believe such an approach would be complicated, arbitrary and could create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty for millions of EU citizens already living in limbo,” read a joint statement from the group.

Guy Verhofstadt visited Westminster earlier this year to discuss Brexit issues such as the ‘settled status’ scheme (Getty)

“Those at the end of the alphabet may not get their status confirmed until the end of 2020 or later, which would be intolerable and contrary to the spirit of the assurances we have previously received.”

“We repeat our belief that the UK’s registration scheme must be simple, fair, user-friendly, free and provide certainty for EU citizens.”

It’s not the first time the Home Office’s plans for the scheme have been derided in Brussels.

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Yahoo Finance UK reported in April how a mobile phone app being developed by the Home Office to allow EU citizens to apply for ‘settled status’ doesn’t work with iPhones.

The problem was revealed when Home Office officials gave a presentation about the system at the European Parliament.

MEPs present were left flabbergasted when the officials suggested people without an Android phone could borrow one.

“It’s just beyond belief,” said Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder, while Labour MEP Claude Moraes pointed out that would exclude 50% of mobile phone users.

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