EU settled status application system branded 'shambles'

28 January 2019

A Government mobile phone app designed by a team of consultancies has been pilloried by frustrated users, who fear its poor accessibility means they may lose their legal status to live and work in the UK after Brexit. With the settled status system having been labelled a ‘shambles’, critics are concerned that thousands of the 3.5 million EU citizens due to apply could lose their residence rights overnight.

In the latter stages of 2018, an expose by Buzzfeed News declared that at the time, the UK Government had signed up to more than a dozen consulting contracts on the matter of Brexit, worth around £40 million. The online news provider went on to assert that the bulk of this figure was being spent on a new ‘settled status’ scheme for EU citizens living in Britain. While it is unclear whether the figure of £75 million which this consulting spend has since ballooned to includes the same portion devoted towards settled status solutions, either way, it has undoubtedly consumed significant public funds.

Further back, in May 2018, as the debate as to what kind of deal will be made for EU nationals residing in the UK – not to mention UK nationals residing in the EU – raged on, the UK Government tapped a collective of five consulting firms to develop an immigration app, designed to register EU citizens living in the UK post-2019. Accenture, BJSS, Capgemini, Deloitte Digital and Worldreach were commissioned to develop the platform that will ultimately be used by millions of EU citizens to apply for settled status.

EU settled status application system branded 'shambles'

The resulting app has since launched, and has been broadly met with condemnation from both users, and immigration experts, who have warned that the settled status scheme as a whole threatens to become the Government’s next ‘Windrush Scandal’. That particular episode saw people who arrived in the UK some 50 years ago wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in around 63 cases, wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office, who had previously destroyed records of their legal arrival under the stewardship of then-Home Secretary Theresa May.

An estimated 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK now need to apply to stay after March 29th 2019, and warnings have already been issued that thousands of people could be left without legal status if applications are not processed quickly and efficiently. Despite this stark forecast, the app which was eventually developed and launched by the consultancies is incompatible with a broad range of devices. The Settled Status app only works on devices using Android 6.0, which was introduced in October 2015, meaning older Android phones which have not updated cannot use it, while it does not function on Apple devices at all.

Speaking to UK news site, Tord Nilson, who runs a digital marketing agency and managed to navigate the process, said, “I am still waiting to hear back but it’s really frustrating to have to prove that I belong here. One of the questions is even “Where were you born?”… I am still waiting to hear if I can stay and the whole thing is very upsetting and frustrating. We are in limbo. It’s a shambles and there will be 3.5 million people to process. There’s no hope in hell this will work out.”

New Windrush

For EU citizens looking to apply, Settled Status requests can also be input manually, at one of 13 document scanning locations across the country – potentially at great expense or distance. Worse still, however the IT system which local authorities have been using at these locations has also routinely failed. As a result, a large number of frustrated would-be-applicants have already taken to social media to say they were delaying their applications until teething problems had been ironed out.

Home Office officials expect they can process about 6,000 applications a day, but the technical issues could lead to a rush of later applicants before the deadline, which they would likely not be able to handle. Critics have also suggested that even when it works, the app and IT system might be difficult to navigate, especially for older or vulnerable citizens, and there could be technical difficulties matching names and official records.

Jill Rutter, Programme Director for Better Policy Making at the Institute for Government said of the scenario, “The Home Office must invest in getting the EU settlement scheme right from the start. Failure to do so could cause massive problems in years to come, on a far bigger scale than the Windrush Scandal. The stakes are high. Get it right and the UK sends a strong message that EU citizens are welcome and the Government is in control. Get it wrong and the consequences are dire.”

Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director at the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants, meanwhile told the Guardian, “EU citizens who do not pay to apply for settled status by 2021 will lose their right to live in the UK and become undocumented… With 3 million to 4 million people needing to register, that means creating tens or hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants overnight. The poor, the elderly, [and] those with illnesses or disabilities will be particularly affected as the government is failing to set aside enough resources to help them.”


Brexit will have major impact on UK-EU electricity flows

22 April 2019

Brexit could have a major impact on the consumer price of electricity in the UK, according to an analysis by Sia Partners. The total costs for UK society could swell to €600 million annually due to less efficient flows of electricity.

As the Brexit process has perpetually stalled, with no realistic end in sight now until Halloween, underprepared businesses have been handed a lifeline. The scramble to prepare for a No Deal scenario can now continue for another half-a-year, and one of the key factors which companies will need to consider when drawing up these plans is the cost of accessing utilities post-Brexit. In the digital age, virtually no business can survive without a ready supply of electricity – while the pay-cheques of staff will also need to inflate to accommodate future rises in bills.

With significant cross-border flows of electricity between continental Europe and the UK, Brexit is destined to have a major impact on individuals and companies in this manner, according to new analysis by consulting firm Sia Partners. These flows of electricity are governed by common European rules, but when the UK leaves EU, Britain’s electricity markets will no longer be integrated into Europe’s ‘Internal Energy Market’.

European model

Historically, electricity grids and markets were developed on a national level. However, years ago the EU set out to achieve integration in electricity grids, on the premise that coupling grids and markets can lead to significant benefits. By making electricity flows possible, price arbitrage can be faded out by allowing buyers to access cheaper prices offered beyond the country’s own borders, driving up competition and lowering average prices.

Brexit will have major impact on UK-EU electricity flows

An analysis of electricity flows between the UK and Ireland demonstrates this. Before Ireland was coupled to the UK, commercial electricity exchanges on the UK - Ireland border flowed 40% of the time against the natural direction, i.e. from the higher to the lower price market. After more effective cooperation and regulation was put into place ('After the I-SEM' went live), the picture changed drastically, with commercial flows now following the price differential 96% of the time. Quantifying this welfare benefit is not easy: according to one estimate by ACER, the economic added value of having market coupling with implicit capacity allocation on the GB-Ireland border (1GW) amounts to around €110 million annually.

Europe’s aim is to achieve interconnection of at least 10% of their installed electricity production capacity by 2020. As it stands, seventeen countries are on track to reach that target by 2020, or have already reached it.

On the UK side, the region currently has a total capacity of around 5GW connected with mainland Europe (France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium), corresponding to roughly 5% of UK’s installed capacity. In comparison with other EU countries, this ratio is on the low end; however, the UK is playing catch-up and has 10 interconnections scheduled for commissioning in the next four years.


It's clear that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have an impact on electricity markets co-operation. The question which remains is how large will the impact will be? To provide a forecast for this, analysts at Sia Partners ran a modelling exercise with two scenarios in mind. After leaving the European bloc, the UK will have to make agreements with European countries, similar to how Switzerland and Norway currently operate. Norway has a deal with a relatively high level of integration with the EU’s internal energy market, while Switzerland stands at the other end of the spectrum, with the country excluded from several market coupling initiatives (e.g. MRC, XBID) and from implicit capacity allocation with any other EU member state.

“If Brexit leads to a construction which is similar to the Swiss deal, where UK’s electricity borders are uncoupled from its neighbouring countries, then there will be a major loss of welfare.”
– Sia Partners

If the UK follows in the footsteps of Norway, then the consequences of Brexit could be muted. According to Sia Partners’ calculations, the economic loss would be minimised in the mid-term, with only operational challenges expected. For example, the implementation of pan-European projects, such as XBID, could run into delays in the UK. The EU currently has 7 of such interconnection projects scheduled for completion before 2022.

“In case a Norwegian style deal is struck, the UK will lose its decision power related to EU energy policy but it would allow keeping the benefits linked to the internal energy market not only for itself but also for Ireland and continental Europe,” the researchers state.

If, however, a Swiss deal is struck, then the projected costs could range between €500 million to €1 billion. An expected 60% of this loss will be borne by the UK, 16% by France, and 8% by Belgium, the isle of Ireland and the Netherlands. The researchers concluded that if Brexit leads to a construction which is similar to the Swiss deal, where UK’s electricity borders are uncoupled from its neighbouring countries, “then there will be a major loss of welfare.”