Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel has prompted fury by plotting to toughen up restrictions on EU citizens after a No Deal Brexit .
The hardliner is working with Boris Johnson on new measures to kick in immediately if the UK crashed out on October 31.
They include “much tougher” criminality checks from Day One on EU citizens entering the UK. Downing Street declared: “Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31.”
But campaigners warned a stricter system would be “chaos” – with officials privately warning it could be “another Windrush”.
That is because there are still questions over how the government will tell new EU migrants apart from those who have a right to live in Britain.
But it’s not known how Border Force will separate these “new” EU citizens from those already in the UK – if they are, for example, returning after a holiday to the Continent.
More than a million EU citizens living in the UK have been granted settled or pre-settled status, which will be proof that they are eligible to stay.
But an estimated two million have not yet applied, and the current deadline to apply is only the end of 2020.
Because of this, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid had suggested there would be a “sensible transition period” if there was no deal.
He said in October last year: “We’ve just got to be practical. If there was a no deal, then we won’t be able to immediately distinguish between those Europeans that were already here before March 29 and those who came after.
“Of course there will need to be some kind of sensible transition period.”
But new Home Secretary Priti Patel takes a much harder line on immigration – and a source told the Independent she wants to “to toughen the Home Office’s stance”.
She is now working with Downing Street on fresh plans about how she can end free movement on October 31.
According to The Times, Home Office officials have warned ending free movement overnight could present a “handling and reputational risk” for the government. They added it could lead to “legitimate concerns of another Windrush”.
But Downing Street said “freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on October 31 when the UK leaves the EU”.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “For example we will introduce, immediately, much tougher criminality rules for people entering the UK.
“Details of other changes immediately on October 31 for a new immigration system are currently being developed.
“The Prime Minister has obviously been clear that we want to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system.”
Further details will be set out by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel shortly, she added.
Lib Dem MP Sir Ed Davey said new, tougher plans may not be legal and there were questions over how they would work.
He told the BBC: “This is chaos gone mad. Priti Patel is almost setting fire to the British economy and British public services.”
He added: “This new measure could inflict dramatic damage to our health service, to our schools, to our whole economy.
“This is not a way to govern. It’s the most irresponsible, reckless form of government I think anyone has ever seen.”
Nicholas Hatton, founder of EU citizens’ group The3million, told The Guardian: “The idea of ending freedom of movement abruptly on 31 October in case of no deal is reckless politics.
“It hollows out the prime minister’s unequivocal guarantee to EU citizens he has given only three weeks ago.
“Ending freedom of movement without putting legal provisions in place for those EU citizens who have not yet successfully applied through the settlement scheme will mean that millions of lawful citizens will have their legal status removed overnight.
“We have been calling for the settlement scheme to be a declaratory registration scheme, so all EU citizens who have made the UK their home are automatically granted status, as promised by those in government.
“Otherwise this will open the door to mass discrimination under the hostile environment, with employers, landlords, banks and the NHS unable to distinguish between those EU citizens with the right to live and work in the UK and those without.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “EU citizens and their families still have until at least December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and one million people have already been granted status.
“Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October when the UK leaves the EU, and after Brexit the Government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from.”