A mobile app developed by the Government to let EU nationals register for settled status ahead of Brexit will not work on iPhones, Home Office officials have admitted.
The revelation that the software would only function on Android phones came at a meeting in Brussels between MEPs and Home Office officials, who came to the UK to explain the registration system to sceptical lawmakers.
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder branded the omission “beyond belief” and told reporters that one official had said EU citizens who wanted to register could “borrow someone else’s” phone to complete the process.
Various models of iPhones are used by just above or just below half of the British adult population, depending on the metric used.
Speaking after the meeting British officials downplayed the problem and said it was “only part of the process” and that there would be “alternative non-digital routes available”.
“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,” Ms Bearder said.
The app, Home Secretary Amber Rudd pledged would be easy to use, will not function on iPhones because they do not have the capability to read the chip in a biometric passport.
The revelation is likely to further lower the opinion of British immigration authorities in the eyes of European politicians and citizens, hot on the heels of damage done by the Windrush immigration scandal and erroneous deportation letters being sent to EU nationals last year.
Speaking after the Tuesday meeting Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator who requested the official visit to Brussels by the Home Office, said he would be writing to UK authorities to resolve various “question marks” about the registration process.
The European Parliament says any system should be by way of “declaration” rather than application that the UK government would have to process. MEPs also want the system to be free for EU citizens living in the UK, on the basis that they had no part in the Brexit decision.
Mr Verhofstadt also added that each family of EU nationals should only have to make one declaration instead of one for each person in it, and that there needed to be special provisions for vulnerable people or those not able to use a digital registration system.
A UK government spokesperson said: “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.”