A post-Brexit rule banning the use of ID cards from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) for entering Britain came into effect on Friday, according to the UK government.
Under plans announced by the government one year ago, most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will need a valid passport to enter the UK. Border officials stop accepting national identity cards as a travel document on October 1.
The UK said the changes, following its definitive departure from the EU earlier this year, were necessary to prevent the use of more easily forged documents, combat crime and stop illegal migrants.
In a statement late on Thursday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said Britain needed to “clamp down on the criminals that seek to enter our country illegally using forged documents.”
The Home Office said the ID cards are some of the most abused documents seen by Border Force officers. Last year almost half of all false documents detected at the border were EU, EEA or Swiss ID cards.
ID cards not secure, says Priti Patel
“By ending the use of insecure ID cards, we are strengthening our border and delivering on the people’s priority to take back control of our immigration system,” Patel added.
Since August 2021 all new ID cards issued by EU countries must follow a common pattern. They comply with the highest security standards, as prescribed by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization. It requires them to be machine readable and to contain a microchip with the holder’s details.
Using ID cards for travel is a long-standing option that means many Europeans do not have passports. While the UK was part of the European Union, it was one of only a handful of countries which did not issue ID cards.
The changes come as Britain grapples with a shortage of thousands of HGV drivers that has led to a profound fuel crisis and shortages on supermarket shelves.
Haulage industry figures have warned the changes to IDs risk creating further obstacles to drivers amid the shortages already blamed by government critics on Brexit as well as the coronavirus.
The Tory election promise
The ban on the ID cards is part of a package of changes to deliver on the ruling Conservative Party’s 2019 election promise to take control of Britain’s borders.
The proposed laws, which have proved controversial with human rights campaigners, include powers to arrest illegal immigrants and transfer asylum-seekers overseas while their applications are processed.
The effect is likely to be drastic for hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants and other enterprises that have previously had a lot of EU visitors. As well as European tourists and people visiting friends and family, business travelers may also be deterred.
The British government has said EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who previously resided in the UK and have been granted the right to stay in Britain will still be able to use their national identity cards at borders until 2025.
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