The Home Office has said it will hold discussions with technology companies after it emerged that a government app for EU nationals wishing to stay in the UK after Brexit is not designed to work on iPhones.
Officials from the department were this week in Brussels to meet with MEPs and talk them through the processes by which EU citizens can apply for rights to live and work in the UK after the country leaves the European Union. During the meeting it emerged that parts of the app the government has designed for people to apply to be allowed to stay in the UK will not work on iPhones.
Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democat MEP for the South East region, was in the meeting, and was one of many to express her incredulity on Twitter.
“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,” she said.
According to reports, Bearder also told reporters that a Home Office representative had suggested during the meeting that those who wished to use the app but did not possess an iPhone could simply borrow someone else’s device.
In a blog published in response to the revelations and the consequent online backlash, the Home Office said that “the app we are developing will be an optional part of the application process”.
“No one will be required to use the app, but it will offer EU citizens an easy and convenient way of verifying their identity,” the department said. “There will be alternative non-digital routes available to all applicants for this part of the application.”
It added: “We are in discussions with technology companies about the digital aspect of this part of the process to ensure as many people as possible can use the app. Further details about the application process for settled status will be set out in the coming months and the scheme will go live on a voluntary basis at the end of the year.”
The government first announced in November that it would be designing a digital service for EU citizen to apply for the right to remain in the UK. The platform would “draw on existing government data” to verify users’ identity and status, the government said.
Apple’s smartphones are the most popular in the UK. As of last month, more than half – 53.3% – of all smartphones currently used by UK citizens run on the iOS operating system, according to data from Statista. Android phones accounts for 44.4%.