In Brief

The pros and cons of ID cards for UK citizens

A national identity card system should be rolled out after Brexit says a think tank but not everyone is convinced

The government should consider introducing ID cards for UK citizens in the wake of Brexit in order to avoid another Windrush-type scandal, a think tank has proposed.

ID cards are “nothing new” for EU citizens arriving in the UK, all of whom have to apply for registration documentation, The Independent says.

But centre-right think tank Policy Exchange suggests the system should be rolled out to all UK citizens, despite ID cards having been the subject of debate for decades.

Here are some of the pros and cons of an ID card system:

Pros

ID cards may help avoid another Windrush scandal

In the report, David Goodhart suggests the scheme should be widened to all Britons on a voluntary basis in order to avoid immigration crises similar to the Windrush scandal, which forced the resignation of then-home secretary Amber Rudd.

He said: “We strongly recommend reopening the debate about ID management to reassure people that we know who is in the country, for how long, and what their entitlements are. A proper national ID system would have prevented the harassment of the Windrush victims.”

They can be used to reform UK immigration

The report argues that current immigration regulations are confusing and as a result Brexit marks a “natural point at which to reform the UK’s immigration system”.

Referring to lax exit controls that would be countered by an ID card system, the report suggests that “the move from a low control to a higher control border goes hand in hand with the move from a low documentation society to a higher documentation one”.

They may help combat trafficking

Labour politicians Alan Johnson and Charles Clarke believe that illegal immigration can be tackled by by ID cards, as can crimes such as trafficking and slavery.

The Policy Exchange agrees. It says illegal immigration “fosters a twilight world of criminality, dependence and exploitation in which modern slavery flourishes.

“Combating illegal immigration should be overtly linked to minimum wage enforcement, private landlord licensing and action against modern slavery.”

Cons

They don’t tackle illegal migration

The Daily Telegraph suggests there is “little evidence” that ID cards would help combat illegal immigration.

“Many people who are described as illegal immigrants are, in fact, asylum-seekers,” the newspaper says. “An ID scheme would not prevent their arrival in the country.

“Existing restraints – such as national insurance checks and minimum wage requirements – are already flouted.”

They are an encroachment on our rights

After abolishing Labour-era ID cards as one of her first decisions as home secretary in 2010, Theresa May said: “This bill is the first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them.”

Speaking to LBC radio, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg previously said: “ID cards change the relationship between the individual and the state. We have a right to go about our business and not be stopped and asked where we are going.

“If you have ID cards a policeman can ask you at any time who you are and what you are doing.”

They could single out minorities

In The Guardian, Conrad Landin writes: “As with stop-and-search powers and tenancy checks, black and Asian people would be challenged most often to prove their identity.”

He says that in April the Equality and Human Rights Commission raised “serious concerns” that the new voter ID checks for May’s local elections would disenfranchise people from ethnic minorities.

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