Brexit app for EU nationals seeking to stay in UK 'will not work on iPhones', according to MEPs

Ella Wills
A new app for EU nationals to register for settled UK status will not work on iPhones: AFP/Getty Images

An app developed for EU nationals to claim settled status in the UK after Brexit will not work on iPhones, Home Office officials have allegedly admitted.

The revelation that the Government's app will not be fully functional on Apple's widely used phone brand came at a closed-door briefing between MEPs and Home Office officials in the European Parliament.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said Home Office staff had suggested people "borrow other types of smartphone" in order to register.

Britain has been developing an application in order to create a simple way for EU citizens to apply for settled status after next year's exit from the European Union.

However, iPhones will reportedly lack a key function of the application - the ability to scan digital passport chips.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the app would be 'as easy as setting up an online shopping account' (AFP/Getty Images)

Home Secretary Amber Rudd had pledged the app would be easy to use. She was quoted by the Financial Times saying it will be "as easy as setting up an online account at LK Bennett".

But the Home Office presentation in Brussels left EU lawmakers worried the system will not work.

Dutch MEP Sophie Int Veld said Apple iPhone users will not have the capability to scan their biometric passport chips in order to apply for residence. They might have to post their passports, she said.

She said the British authorities needed to build trust and show they had administrative resources to make the registration system work next year, Reuters reported.

Ms Bearder said on Tuesday: "I cannot understand why the Home Office is creating an easy to use app which cannot even be used fully on an iPhone. It's beyond belief."

Speaking after the presentation Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, said that his group would write to the Government and EU Brexit negotiators listing concerns.

"After the Windrush scandal ... there is a lot of anxiety (among) our EU citizens living in Britain that they could have the same experience," Mr Verhofstadt told reporters, referring to revelations this month about moves to deport people who came to Britain from the Caribbean as children in the 1950s and 60s.

MEPs said the system for registering for lifetime rights for Europeans who arrived in Britain while it was an EU member should be free, and must also be quick, simple and confer rights immediately rather than make people wait for confirmation.

Mr Verhofstadt said they were also looking for assurances about how people could apply who could not use a smartphone.

A Home Office spokeswoman told the Standard: “We are developing from scratch a new digital, streamlined, user-friendly scheme for EU citizens to safeguard their right to stay in the UK after we leave the EU.

“Technology will play an important role in making applications simple but this is only part of the process for those who choose to use it and there will be alternative non-digital routes available to all applicants to prove their identity.

“Our voluntary settled status scheme will be opening later this year and we continue to closely engage with technology companies, as well as other stakeholders about its design."

The Standard has approached the Home Office for further comment.