The British Government announced on Thursday that it has received over 750,000 applications for permanent residence from EU nationals wishing to stay on in the United Kingdom after Brexit.
Polish citizens are the largest contingent, numbering over 100,000, followed by Romanians (about 90,000) and Italians (over 70,000), while about 26,500 applications were received from French citizens, according to figures from the Home Affairs Ministry.
Some 3.8 million EU citizens live in the United Kingdom. They need to request permanent residence, known as “settled status” in Britain to be able to continue working and keep receiving social benefits when the country withdraws from the European Union.
Initially set for 29 March, the deadline for the British pull-out was pushed back to 31 October after members of parliament voted thrice to turn down a Brexit agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May with Brussels.
Under this agreement, based on the principle of reciprocity, Europeans living in the United Kingdom and the 1.2 million British citizens on the continent would be able to continue studying, working, receiving social benefits and bringing in their families.
Whether the country leaves Europe or not, EU nationals have at least until 31 December 2020 to apply for residence, the Home Affairs Ministry stated.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid stressed that “EU citizens are our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues”. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, “we want them to stay,” he added in a press release.
Javid described as “extremely encouraging” the first results of the plan in place for European citizens, but the House of Commons Home Affairs Commission said it was worried that some people might be excluded.
In a report issued on Thursday, it referred to “technical problems” in the registration process as well as difficulties that Europeans sometimes have in proving their right to settler status.
The commission warned against a replay of the “Windrush” scandal, in which people of Caribbean origin who arrived in Britain after World War II were treated as illegal immigrants although they were supposedly British.
The Brussels Times