As the scandal around the Windrush generation continues to unfold, it has been suggested that one method of preventing similar issues in the future is the reintroduction of national identity cards. The United Kingdom stopped using ID cards in 1952, but their use remains a contentious subject to this day. Those who support the idea insist that their use could aid in the prevention of illegal immigration, whilst a substantial proportion of the public express concerns over privacy, the perceived loss of personal freedoms and the fear of the UK becoming a “police state”.
At present there are only three countries within the European Union that do not use any form of identity card: The UK, Ireland and Denmark – with all other members of the EU using some form of ID card scheme, whether optional or mandatory. These cards can be used not only as an official identity document in their native countries, but also as a travel document to exercise the right of free movement in the EEA and Switzerland, and as unofficial identification documents in some areas outside of the EU, as age verification for example.
The United Kingdom will soon face the challenge of documenting the 3.5 million EU nationals that it is estimated will wish to live in Britain following its exit from Europe, and while the implementation of a national ID scheme can be problematic – Norway has postponed the rollout of its new passport/ID scheme four times to date - and will clearly be a massive (and expensive) undertaking, there is an argument that the time is right to look the issue of ID cards within the UK once again.