Jonathan Portes, a research fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, warned that logging the details of all EU nationals who have lived in the UK prior to Brexit would prove a “formidable logistical, bureaucratic, administrative and legal task” for Government.
The former chief economist at the Cabinet Office rejected a “cut off date” proposal raised by David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, who suggested that rather than examining the individual details of each migrant’s case, all EU nationals living in the UK on the date of the referendum should automatically be allowed to remain.
Mr Portes said: “There is no definition of resident, no proof of residence, for people who have been here. What about the Polish shopkeeper who went home on 23 June? We do not know who was in the country.”
Instead, Mr Portes advised the Government to consider how urgent and important it is to register EU migrants.
He also raised concerns about the impact on the economy of ending the free movement of low-skilled workers from the EU, which he claimed could lead to businesses shutting down, food price hikes and cuts to social care.
He said: “They may range from simply shutting down, going out of business, in which case consumers would either buy different products or products from abroad… Another possible response is higher wages which would probably be passed onto consumers.”
But Whitehall has insisted that gaining a greater grip of control over the migrant population in the UK is a crucial part of Britain’s exit strategy from the EU.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Government has been clear that, as we conduct our negotiations, it must be a priority to regain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe. It would not be right for us to give a running commentary on negotiations.”
The spokesperson added that resolving the issue of settling migrants will be resolved “early on” in Brexit negotiations.
The spokesperson said: “This is an issue that we are very clear matters to Europeans here in the UK and Brits in Europe.
He added: “It’s a two-year process once we trigger (Article 50) so these are going to be lengthy negotiations.”