Think tank argues for re-think on British ID card

31/07/18

UK think tank Policy Exchange has suggested a post-Brexit ID system planned for Europeans should be extended to UK-born citizens, arguing that Brexit marks a natural point at which to reform the UK’s immigration system.

The group has said that said the “settled status” scheme for EU nationals living in the UK after Brexit should become the prototype for a national ID card scheme.

In a report, Policy Exchange cites the Windrush Scandal in the UK, which saw settled West Indians subject to harsh threats, detention and even deportation although many had resided in the UK for decades, and they arrived in the country legally under the Crown's protection. It claims that having a national ID card scheme could avert the repeat of another Windrush-style scandal.

In May it was revealed that at least 63 members of the Windrush generation - named after the boat that brought the first Caribbean migrants to the UK - had been wrongfully removed since 2002.

"The one welcome consequence of the Windrush scandal has been a revival of the debate about ID cards. With more people living in the country temporarily, with more conditions on their residence, some form of unique number identification for establishing status (with the state, employers, landlords and so on) is vital for all those without permanent residence status. The identity management experiment for EU citizens remaining in the UK after Brexit should be a prototype for a national system."

"We also strongly recommend re-opening the debate about ID cards or some form of national identity management system to reassure people in a world of ever rising human flows that we know who is in the country, for how long, and what their entitlements are. This is surely a bulwark against ugly forms of nativism. The move from a low control to a higher control border goes hand in hand with the move from a low documentation society to a higher documentation one."

"The often elderly Caribbeans caught up in the Windrush scandal were victims of that process being mismanaged, not the process itself. The justified outcry over the Windrush failure should not extend to challenging this shift to a higher control border, indeed a proper national ID system would have prevented the harassment of the Windrush victims. The system has evidently been too tough in some areas and not tough enough in others"

There have been repeated calls for the return of identity cards ever since they were scrapped in the UK in 1952.

A £5bn national identity card scheme was introduced by the Labour government in 2006, but Theresa May abolished it when she became home secretary in 2010.

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