Priti Patel’s announcement this week concerning the UK’s new immigration controls will come as a blow for our already beleaguered border force officials.
The notion of having to apply additional scrutiny to EU nationals entering the country will surely lead to huge queues that, as one Brexiteer pointed out, wasn’t what people voted for.
Honesty box principle
But they needn’t have worried.
In order to avoid such queues at our airports, EU nationals will still be able to use automated eGates which will enable any EU passport holder (unless on a watch list) to enter the UK without being scrutinised.
EU nationals arriving in the UK to work illegally, or who are being trafficked or intend to involve themselves in criminality will be able to do so with near impunity.
Those passengers will therefore be entering the UK on a ‘honesty box’ principle which perhaps will come as a surprise for many who anticipated stronger borders post-Brexit.
New controls will weaken our borders
UK police appear likely to be forced from Europol and if, in addition, the UK Border Force and police lose access to the Schengen and other European law enforcement databases after transition, this will weaken our borders still further.
Both the National Police Chief’s Council and the National Crime Agency have already stated that this will adversely affect policing operations in respect of terrorism and organised criminality.
In the unlikely event of Patel deciding to implement a US style ESTA system, where all non-UK visitors have to fill out an online application form before they travel, this will simply become a hugely expensive bureaucratic nightmare for the Home Office and totally worthless without access to the above-mentioned EU law enforcement databases.
The fact that there will be labour shortages in many industries could well increase illegal immigration with there being no effective border controls.
There are between 500,000 and one million persons currently in the UK illegally depending on which set of figures are deemed to be accurate.
The Home Office immigration enforcement section is woefully understaffed thus any person here illegally is likely to remain undetected.
Landlords and employers
The Home Office will therefore doubtless place the burden of detection upon landlords and employers yet this has proved a lamentable failure thus far.
Many of the thousands who arrive in the UK legally but overstay or who arrive clandestinely hidden in lorries or boats have little difficulty in disappearing into communities and forging new lives for themselves albeit illicitly.
Another issue police are having to contend with are the activities of foreign organised crime groups travelling to the UK specifically to commit crime. Most will have passed through UK border controls.
The Home Office has recently withdrawn a valuable source of intelligence. All landing cards have been withdrawn, for all nationalities in all circumstances.
The Home Secretary needs to take steps to ensure that her proposals do actually strengthen the UK’s borders rather than weaken them.
She also needs to ensure that the sick and the vulnerable don’t suffer and businesses, be they on the high street, in manufacturing, construction or ‘ high tec’, have both the labour and skills they need to ensure post-Brexit prosperity.
Finally, of course, she needs to restore the appalling levels of morale that include, not just those on the front line (dreadful UK Border Force staff surveys), but apparently stretches to the very top of the shambolic Home Office.