THE UK Government’s decision to immediately end the free movement of people on October 31 if Britain left the EU without a deal has been branded “reckless” by campaigners for EU citizens’ rights.

The Liberal Democrats also denounced the Conservatives’ approach as “chaos gone mad,” warning it would threaten Britain’s economy and its public services.

No 10 said the system allowing EU citizens to freely live and work in the UK would "look different" after Brexit Day with changes including tougher checks to prevent foreign criminals entering the country.

Ministers were warned that dramatically changing the system on October 31 could leave the UK facing "another Windrush"; a reference to the immigration scandal which led to Amber Rudd's resignation as Home Secretary in April 2018.

Last week, Home Office officials produced a discussion paper for a ministerial no-deal Brexit meeting, which warned that implementing an immediate ban on free movement could present a "handling and reputational risk" for the Government.

A Whitehall source said the document raised concerns that an "interim" immigration system would prove impossible to enforce because the Government and employers would be unable to distinguish new arrivals from those already living in Britain.

It recommended that free movement should continue until a new immigration system was ready in January 2021 to provide "maximum certainty" to EU citizens and employers.

However, Downing St confirmed an immediate end to free movement “as it currently stands” on October 31 and said that Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, would shortly set out details of the Government’s new immigration system.

The Prime Minister has made clear he wants to introduce an Australian-style points-based system to cater for the UK’s specific needs after Brexit.

His spokeswoman insisted that EU citizens currently resident in the UK would not be prevented from re-entering the country after trips abroad, although it was unclear how checks would be carried out.

The system allowing EU citizens to apply for settled status would be unchanged and the two million people who had not yet completed the process would not be prevented from entering the UK by the ending of free movement.

"The Home Office have set out that no one eligible for settled status will be unable to re-enter the UK when free movement ends and they have obviously been doing a significant amount of work to communicate how you apply," she explained.

A Home Office spokesman told The Herald that the issue of how an EU citizen, re-entering Britain at the border, would prove their eligibility to reside in the UK was one of the issues the department was still looking into but he made clear it would be resolved before October 31.

However, the 3 Million group, which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens in the UK, said: "The idea of ending freedom of movement abruptly on October 31 in case of no-deal is reckless politics.

"It hollows out the Prime Minister's unequivocal guarantee to EU citizens he has given only three weeks ago.”

It warned that ending freedom of movement without putting in place legal provisions for the majority of EU citizens, who had not yet successfully applied through the settlement scheme, would mean millions of lawful citizens would have their legal status removed overnight.

"We have been calling for the settlement scheme to be a declaratory registration scheme, so all EU citizens who have made the UK their home are automatically granted status, as promised by those in Government.

"Otherwise, this will open the door to mass discrimination under the hostile environment with employers, landlords, banks and the NHS unable to distinguish between those EU citizens with the right to live and work in the UK and those without," it added.

Sir Ed Davey for the Liberal Democrats claimed there was a "question-mark" over whether the Government's plans to end freedom of movement on October 31 was legal and whether the ports and the borders "could actually cope logistically".

He said: “This is increasing uncertainty for all employers and could be highly damaging for people using the NHS or depend on the services of a business that has EU workers."

Sir Ed, noting how the Government had “not even said what they'd put in its place," added: "This is chaos gone mad. Priti Patel is almost setting fire to the British economy and British public services."