Around 5million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK – far more than people thought (Image: OLIVIER HOSLET/EPA-EFE/REX)
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The government has refused to extend next week’s cut-off date for EU citizens to apply to stay in the UK.
Downing Street said there would be no change to the long-planned June 30 deadline to apply for settled status.
That is despite internal government estimates suggesting more than 100,000 could lose benefit payments overnight.
According to The Times, the estimates suggest 130,000 of the 820,000 European benefit claimants living in the UK had not yet applied for settled status by May 31.
Of those, more than 90,000 were thought to be on Universal Credit.
A minister told the newspaper: “The Home Office needs to get a grip of this, and quick, otherwise we could have a total disaster on our hands.”
Downing Street today insisted those with “reasonable grounds” for filing late can still apply after June 30.
Thousands of EU citizens face having no right to remain in UK as June 30 Brexit deadline looms
These include people who have “limited leave” to enter or remain in the UK granted under specific parts of immigration rules, and people who are joining family members and only arrived in the UK after April 1.
But No10 said there would be no wholesale extension to the June 30 deadline.
Asked if EU citizens who miss the cut-off would “get the boot” from Britain, Boris Johnson ’s official spokesman replied: “I think we’ve set out very clearly the need for people to come forward ahead of the deadline.
“And like I say, we will continue to work and do everything possible to contact the minority that haven’t come forward.”
The spokesman added: “We are making sure that anyone receiving benefits is given every opportunity to apply to the EU settlement scheme.
“We are working hard to identify existing claimants who are yet to apply, and encouraging them to do so.
“Anyone who’s applied to the scheme by the June 30 deadline will have their rights protected until their application is decided.
No10 said the June 30 deadline won't be extended
“And in line with the Withdrawal Agreement, those who have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline will be able to make a late application.”
The EU Settlement Scheme was set up after Brexit, so EU nationals who came to the UK before the January 1 this year can apply for ‘settled status’ or, if they have less than five years residence, ‘pre-settled status’.
Those who failed to apply by the deadline, and who do not have a good reason for missing the cut-off, will have no legal immigration status.
A report by the UK in a Changing Europe think tank has warned such people will "be considered ‘undocumented’ and become subject to the ‘hostile environment’ and the risk of removal".
The organisation said the scheme had been “hugely successful”, but “it is about to enter a phase that will require sensitive management where the government will need to show pragmatism and flexibility in dealing with difficult cases”.
Official data shows there had been 5.61million applications to the scheme by May 31 – despite initial estimates suggesting 3million EU citizens lived in the UK.
Of those, around 340,000 applications were yet to be concluded while 94,000 were refused and 74,900 deemed invalid.
However, not all of those are people who will be rejected in the end because there have been more than 300,000 repeat applications.
In total, just under 5million people are thought to have applied to the scheme up to May 31.