An independent authority is to be set up to monitor the implementation and application of EU citizens’ rights following Brexit.
It will cost £145m to set up and run and will have the authority to launch inquiries, receive complaints and bring legal action against the government.
The details are laid out in the 69-page Brexit impact assessment report that accompanied the publication of the withdrawal agreement bill on Monday night.
The new authority will monitor not just the settled status programme run by the Home Office for the estimated 3.4m EU citizens in the country, but the delivery of social welfare and other employment rights across various government departments.
While the costs of setting up the authority are considerable, the annual cost is put at just £15m, including salaries of around £200,000.
The campaign group the3million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, said it wanted more detail on the staffing of the authority and said it would be concerned that the monitoring authority would have to be monitored for its independence.
It also said it had concerns about the scope of the authority and the appeals process if anything did go wrong on citizens’ rights and entitlements, with decisions in one department affecting settled-status rights.
Separately on Tuesday, the current settled status scheme for EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK after Brexit was criticised for its lack of legal foundation by a barrister working with the campaign group British in Europe.
Jeremy Morgan QC said EU citizens merely had “permissions” under settled status rather than legal rights because the the scheme was a “statement of executive policy” of the government rather than law.
The report says the Brexit bill creates the power to make “new regulations” through secondary legislation to ensure EU citizens maintain existing entitlements.
As well as citizens’ rights, the report discusses the ramifications of the withdrawal agreement bill in a number of other key areas:
The report omits a wide impact assessment on the economy and particularly on Northern Ireland, but states that the divorce bill is now expected to be about £32.8bn compared with initial estimates of £39bn based on the exit date of 29 March 2019.
Trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
The report also sheds some light on how the new trade arrangements would work for Northern Ireland as part of the “frontstop” in Boris Johnson’s deal, but is scant on the detail on the controversial exit declaration forms that the Brexit secretary Steve Barclay said Northern Ireland firms would be required to complete if they were transiting goods to Great Britain.
All it says is that “some practical information will need to be provided electronically on movement of goods West-East”. It says that because the government does not have data on movement of goods from the region to Great Britain “it has not been possible to monetise the associated additional costs to business”.
The revelation by Barclay on Monday that some paperwork would be required prompted sharp criticism by Democratic Unionist party MPs and others who said it was a breach of the promise that there would be unfettered trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.
The report points out that more than 90% of those who sell into Britain, 7,000 business in total, are small to medium-sized businesses and would therefore be vulnerable to cost increases.
Companies trading east-west from Britain to Northern Ireland will have to pay tariffs and complete customs declarations forms costing between £15 and £56 per declaration, with rebates for those whose goods remain in Northern Ireland. Tesco deliveries from Britain to supermarkets in Belfast are an example given by Barclay of goods that would be eligible for rebate.
The document does not address in detail on how the regulation of these goods, which will have to maintain alignment with EU standards, will be executed bar random and intelligence-led checks in markets and ports. It appears the burden will fall on manufacturers and suppliers.
“Businesses in GB placing goods on the market in Northern Ireland will need to ensure they are complying with the relevant EU rules and could be subject to risk based checks at the boundary of the regulatory zone,” it says.