Technology giant Apple criticised over Brexit app access for EU citizens

A senior East Sussex councillor has hit out at the technology giant Apple after approving a scheme to help European Union citizens claim settled status after Brexit.

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 6:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 6:23 pm
The app to help EU citizens apply for settled status in the UK after Brexit
The app to help EU citizens apply for settled status in the UK after Brexit

 Bill Bentley, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for communities and safety, signed off on the setting up of the European Settlement Scheme (EuSS) service today (Thursday April 25).

The council-run service is intended to help EU citizens apply for settled status, which they will need to continue living in the UK after Brexit, by giving access to a smartphone app used as part of the application process.

In making his decision, Cllr Bentley heard that the service had been brought forward because the app is only currently available on newer models of Android phones.

Council officers said this was partly because Apple had declined to allow Government app-makers access the technology needed to ensure the passports could be checked for anti-counterfeiting devices.

After signing off on the service, Cllr Bentley said: “I would like to formally say that Apple – who go to great lengths to talk about the ease of engagement using their devices – by obstructing this and causing public expenditure and making life difficult is unreasonable.

“I think this has been forced upon us by Apple and it probably wouldn’t have been necessary if they had a better business management process.”

The technologies in question are known as Near-Field Communication (NFC) chips and are perhaps best known for their use as part of contactless card payments.

While Android allows developers access to its version of the technology, officers said, Apple has not as it considers this to be a security risk.  This is despite lobbying from the UK and other governments, officers said.

As a result the self-service app, which uses a smartphone’s NFC chip to verify a passport is legitimate, has only been developed for Android phones.

The EuSS service is intended to give those applying for settled status access to a smartphone loaded with the app at one of the county’s four registry offices.

The service is free for all East Sussex residents, but will be charged at £14 for those living outside of the county.

Applicants can also post their passport for verification as an alternative to using the app.