Brexit: EU citizens applying to stay permanently in UK will be left in limbo for a decade

A new immigration system cannot be ready for several years, forcing the Government to keep the current rules to avoid what business leaders fear will be “a bureaucratic nightmare”.

Any delay is potentially embarrassing for the Prime Minister, who has made regaining “control of our borders” her “red line” in the Brexit negotiations about to begin.

But the IfG, in a detailed study, has warned it is “unfeasible” to create a new immigration system by the time Britain leaves the EU by April 2019, despite Tory promises of an early Bill.

It warns against the disruption to employers from making temporary changes, adding: “That means free movement will have to continue post-Brexit until the new regime is ready to go live.”

new Government “must clarify the rights and entitlements of EU nationals living in the UK and provide them with documentation”.

It points out that 2m of the 3m EU nationals in the UK can already apply for residency – having lived here for five years – with many of the remaining 1m qualifying by 2019.

Around 55,000 work in the NHS – a number that is growing. In 2015-16, EU migrants made up 32 per cent of badly-needed new nurses and midwives.

The IfG noted: “To process all EU nationals currently eligible for permanent residence by March 2019, the Home Office would need to make roughly 3,600 decisions per day; it is currently making about 650 decisions per day.”

“Brexiteers clearly stated during the referendum campaign that the acquired rights of EU citizens in the UK would be protected by international law –  this was a total fabrication,” she said.

“We will seek guarantees to ensure EU nationals in the UK are issued with residence documents under a simple and swift procedure, before discussions on a future trade agreement can be opened.”

The IfG said an army of 5,000 extra Home Office staff would be required to process applications under the current tortuous system, on top of 140 already recruited.

“The current process for dealing with permanent residence applications from EU nationals is not fit for purpose,” said Jill Rutter, the IfG Brexit programme director.

Britain has refused to grant the 3m EU nationals in the UK the right to remain and work after Brexit until the 1.1m British ex-pats