Postponed by Brexit: Vital investigations into the effectiveness of Britain’s border controls


David Bolt, chief inspector of borders and immigration Pic Credit:


While the mantra of every enthusiastic Brexiteer has been ” we are taking back control” of our borders the irony is quietly over Easter the Whitehall body responsible  for checking it postponed vital investigations to ensure it happens.

David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, announced changes to the planned schedule of investigations – entirely because of the failure of ministers to sort out the Brexit negotiations.

The chief inspector’s job is to make sure that the UK has an efficient and fair system of immigration and customs controls – precisely because once we are out of the EU it will become even more important that they work properly. It also identifies risks of smuggling and illegal immigration.

However ministerial failure to sort this out – notably by Theresa May and David Davis the Brexit Secretary, now means that planned inspections cannot take place this year and have been postponed for at least 12 months if not longer.

The biggest casualty has been a big  350 day long investigation and inspection of West Coast ports – notably  Swansea, Fishguard, Holyhead,Liverpool and Stranraer among others – due to begin now and postponed until next year.

The reason is starkly included in the revised timetable. ” Deferred from 2018-19; timing subject to agreement on the CTA arrangements after the UK exits the EU.

These sparse words basically mean ” Can no do because Britain and the EU cannot agree on the future of the Irish border and how the common travel area will work and it will be a waste of time to do it now because it could all change”.

It also means that we may not know whether the new arrangements are working until well after we have left the EU.

Nor is it the only investigation deferred. A similar investigation this year was going to look at customs control over freight operation scheduled for 2019-20. The timetable now says : Inspection scope and timing subject to agreement on the handling of freight after the UK’s exit from the EU.

Again failure to decide exactly whether there will be tariffs on goods means could well be delayed and we won’t know how this is working either.

Meanwhile this year an inspection into the ” points” system for immigration has had to be significantly widened to include rules for  Inspection of “Brexit preparedness”, focusing on resourcing and processes for the registration and settlement of
EU nationals.

There also has been a knock on effect on other investigations including  delays to a further in country investigation into modern slavery and a one year delay in investigating NHS charging because of insufficient resources. They could also be a delay to an investigation into illegal working in the UK.

David Bolt adds: “I have therefore created space within the Plan for various ‘Brexit’-related pieces of work, the precise shape and timing of which are not yet fixed. I will announce specific inspections in the normal way via the website as soon as I am able.”

The organisation is one of the few not to suffer Whitehall austerity cuts but as people leave it is finding it difficult to recruit new people which could be a new worry.

His statement ends with a plea for people to join the service. “If you believe that you have the necessary qualities and are interested in joining the inspectorate, please keep an eye on the website, where any vacancies will be advertised.”

This seems yet another example of  how the failure to sort out an early timetable for Brexit is leaving a trail of unfinished business across Whitehall – and a fresh danger of chaos at our borders after we have left.






Conservative Home: Asset or Tory trojan horse

tim montgomerie -Con Home success could be Cameron's dilemma

If David Cameron wins the next general election, will Conservative Home be an asset or a Trojan horse that could wreck the first Tory government in 13 years?

Like its right wing counterparts in America the website is one of the great success stories in giving a lively voice to free market and Conservative views. It reflects the wide gamut of party opinions on Europe, crime, benefits and taxation. It is to the embarrassment of Tory spin doctors at Central Office singularly unafraid of carrying blogs criticising the Cameron leadership.  Witness the recent public debate on the site over whether Cameron was out of touch and living in a protected bubble from the rest of the party as he roamed round Parliament. Something you might expect more on Labour Home than Conservative Home.

Despite being funded by billionaire Tory donor Lord Ashcroft there appears to be no heavy hand of censorship and some Tory stars like Eurosceptics David Davis and John Redwood are more popular on Conservative Home than members of the present Shadow Cabinet.

Much of its success is due to the personality of Tim Montgomerie, a Christian Tory who is less abrasive than his anarchic right wing counterparts, Tory Bear and Guido Fawkes. He appears to have taken the view that a well read website should not have to toe the party line and can produce uncomfortable facts for the leadership. None more embarrassing recently than the low priority many of a new generation of Tory prospective MPs give to the environment and climate change – despite the Cameron leadership emphasising the “ Blue  Green “ nature of modern Conservatism. It is almost a Christian view of ensuring the leadership have to turn the other cheek when they face a problem.

This is fine while the party remains in opposition but what would happen if it came to power. Now most of the criticism of Cameron is hidden in a deluge of comment attacking New Labour or as many Tory bloggers call it, Nu Labour. It is very easy to take pop shots at Brown over bullying, or slam Ed Balls for his ruthlessness. Attacking Harman and the Milibands is no doubt very helpful to the Tory leadership. They can be blamed for broken Britain.

  But in power it would be different and the signs are that the real Tory party is nothing like the one the Cameron leadership presents to the electorate. It would be extraordinary if the right wing blogosphere that has none of the old guard deference to the leadership did not organise against it with same ferocity it attacks Nu Labour.

I know this is already happening. Before Cameron even has a chance of putting a foot inside Number Ten, Tory right wing rivals, UKIP, have spotted that Cameron appears to have foolishly pledged to hold a debate in Parliament on whether the UK should stay in the EU. Provided, of course, one million people sign a petition.

Organising a million strong petition on the net is child’s play with Facebook, Guido Fawkes and of course Conservative Home, only too happy to play a part. And UKIP has said to me that with many of their friends on Conservative Home sympathising with their views on Europe, they think that debate would have to take place soon. No wonder Cameron is despatching the old pro European bruiser Kenneth Clarke to Brussels to reassure our partners in the EU.

And why stop at Europe? Big tax cuts, bringing back hanging, demanding the right to kill a burglar, abolishing trade unions, opposing action on climate change, none of which are on Cameron’s immediate         agenda, could  become the new  on line demands.

Lord A could pull the plug on Con Home after a Tory victory. But the genie is out of the bottle and the Tory leadership is in for a rough ride from the grass roots cyber fighters on the right.

This post is also on the Progress website under Tory Tracker at