UK assures Brussels over settled status scheme

The UK government has assured Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, that EU27 citizens will not be deported if they fail to apply under Britain's Settled Status scheme.

Image illustrating an article about EU immigration as a result of Brexit
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Verhofstadt also said Brussels was "putting pressure" on the 15 EU nations who had so far failed to come up with programmes to guarantee the post-Brexit rights of more than a million Britons living and, in many cases, working on the continent.Mr Verhofstadt was speaking after a meeting with Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, at which they discussed a range of issues, including concerns Brussels has over the Settled Status scheme, which is open (after a six-month grace period) until June 30 2021 and under which EU27 can guarantee their rights to remain in the UK and their entitlement to all social benefits.Last year, a government minister said European nationals could face deportation if they failed to register under the scheme but Mr Barclay has now said this will not be the case.“I wanted to be sure that there would be no automatic deportation for people after that period because it can be people who are very vulnerable,” said Mr Verhofstadt.“The idea would be that even these people, after the grace period, they will have the possibility to apply giving the grounds for why it was not possible (to apply for Settled Status) within the normal procedures.”The government also appears ready to concede to demands from Brussels that EU citizens be allowed to have a hard copy of their Settled Status confirmation. Up to now, claimants have been told to use a screenshot of their confirmation on their mobile phone as proof.Mr Verhofstadt said: "They said we are going to look at it so people can print it so they have a physical document. People will have the opportunity to have a printout, probably a PDF document. That was the conclusion of our conversation."Home Office figures this week showed that the number of Settled Status applications had reached 2,756,100 by the end of last month, with 2,450,100 being approved so far. Estimates of the number of EU27 nationals in the UK range between three million and 3.7 million.
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The former Belgian prime minister conceded there were also concerns among UK citizens living in EU27 countries, which Brussels was seeking to address.“There is a problem also with anxiety for the UK citizens living on the continent,” he said. “So what we’re going to do now is increase the pressure in the coming days. There will be a letter going out from all sides – parliament, the council – to member states saying: ‘Look, in 12 countries things are going very well’.“In 12 countries they have a declaratory system, so there’s no need to advocate for citizenship of that country. In others it is more difficult and we want to be sure that, in 2020, in these other 15 countries of the European Union, things are going smoothly.”He added that the EU could not "force" member states to comply with the instructions on citizens' rights but added: "I think we can succeed."On the chances of the UK and EU reaching a post-Brexit free trade agreement, Mr Verhofstadt said it would be "very difficult" to secure if Britain did not agree to adhere to existing EU rules on standards."I think both sides have an interest to be very ambitious," he said. "But how far this will go is very difficult to say because it will depend on what the willingness is of the UK side to also comply with a number of standards in the European Union."We are always saying 'No tariffs? OK. No quotas? OK'. But also - no dumping. That can be state aid, that can be ecological standards, social standards."If the UK did not fall in line with such standards, he added, it would be "very difficult to have a broad free trade agreement at that moment".

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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