/1 million EU citizens granted right to reside in UK after Brexit

1 million EU citizens granted right to reside in UK after Brexit

Demonstrators lobby MPs to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. after Brexit in London on September 13, 2017 | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Polish, Romanian and Italian nationals sent most applications under settlement scheme, according to Home Office.

About 1 million of the roughly 3 million EU27 citizens living in the U.K. have obtained the right to reside in the country after Brexit through the British government’s new EU settlement scheme.

According to figures released by the Home Office today, 951,700 citizens from European Economic Area countries and Switzerland had obtained settled or pre-settled status (for those who will have been living in the country for five years by December 30, 2020) as of July 31. Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said registrations hit 1 million in August.

The British government launched the scheme at the end of March to ensure citizens of other EU countries living in the country continue to have the right to live, work and have access to public services in the U.K. after Brexit. The scheme is set to replace the permanent residency program, and all Europeans who arrive in Britain before Brexit day would be eligible to apply.

Almost 150,000 Europeans obtained settled status in the month of July alone, as the government stepped up its preparations to leave the EU without a deal.

The highest number of applications received were from Polish (179,800), Romanian (141,200) and Italian (121,600) nationals.

The Home Office is urging Europeans to apply to the scheme by December 31, 2020 if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal, and by June 30, 2021 if a Brexit deal is ratified.

Catherine Barnard, a professor of EU law and employment law at the University of Cambridge, said that low-skilled workers such as fruit-pickers, who work for multiple U.K. employers, are less likely to apply to the scheme.

“The good news is that people are applying to settled status and actually those who have secured work histories are finding it a relatively easy process,” she said.

“The bad side that is that of course the majority still haven’t done it and, in my experience talking with EU nationals, some of them don’t appreciate the significance of having to do it. Others who have got very incomplete work histories are worried about being able to prove that they’ve got settled status.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the figures are “very positive” and Europeans still have “quite a long time” to apply.

Lewis said the scheme is designed to make it “straightforward” for Europeans and their family members to stay in the country after Britain leaves the EU.

“EU citizens have made incredible contributions to our country — which is why I’m so pleased that over one million people have been granted status, enshrining their rights in law,” he said.

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