The UK’s Brexit app for EU citizens doesn’t work on iPhones

“Sorry, are you using that Android?”
“Sorry, are you using that Android?”
Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

If the approximately 3.7 million EU citizens currently living freely in the UK want to remain after Brexit, they will face a series of bureaucratic hurdles as they apply for “settled status.”

The first of these is via an app which verifies ID documents. It doesn’t work on iPhones.

According to the New Yorker, the app, currently in trials, uses facial-recognition software and a  camera-based scanner to match users and their passports. (It has the snappy, Home Office-given name “EU Exit: ID Document Check.”)

But don’t bother looking for it on the Apple-based App Store—the app only works on Android phones. Those without one have been officially advised “to ‘use someone else’s smartphone’ as a workaround.”

Quite apart from being shockingly bad advice, at first glance, this makes no real sense. As of May 2018, some 49.37% of British smartphone users used an iPhone. More recent data suggests that Android users make up just 38.28% of market share, sitting solidly in second place. It’s possible that the Home Office’s coders are going by statistics on EU market share, where 68.95% of people use Androids, compared to just 28.25% of people on iOS—but it’s surprising nonetheless. After all, the people who’ll be using the app presently live and work in Britain.

This is just one of many apparent wrinkles in the “EU Settlement Scheme.” Britain’s immigration minister Caroline Nokes released an October letter addressed to Labour MP Yvette Cooper, touting the application’s success. Most people completed the steps on the app in under 20 minutes, she wrote, while the vast majority described it as “easy to complete.” A month on, New Yorker journalist Sam Knight, who sat in on a 2pm application session at a south London charity, reported that by 3pm, not a single family had finished entering their details.

But whether the app takes 20 minutes or an hour to use is moot, given that as much as half of all applicants won’t be able to use it unless they happen to have a friend with an Android phone. Still, this is Brexit. A system that alienates around half of all the people involved seems thoroughly appropriate.