UK Politics

Brexit: Refunding EU settled status fees costs up to £1.95m

File image showing demonstrators representing EU citizens living in the UK marching through London on 5 November 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Demonstrators campaigning for clarity on EU citizens' rights marched through London in November last year

Theresa May's decision to scrap the fee for EU nationals to apply for stay in the UK after Brexit will cost up to £1.95m in refunds, the Lib Dems say.

EU citizens who want to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021 were facing a £65 fee.

But the PM said on Monday she would waive the fee and give refunds to those who had already applied.

Home Office Minister Caroline Nokes said more than 30,000 people had signed up in a pilot programme for the scheme.

In a written answer to a question from a Lib Dem MP, she said: "Anyone who has applied already... will have their fee refunded."

Applications to settle after Brexit are open to EU citizens who will have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period by the end of next year.

Before the prime minister scrapped the fee it had been expected to apply to about three million people.

It is unclear how many early applicants paid less than the full fee, with under 16s being charged £32.50.

But the Liberal Democrats pointed out that 30,000 full refunds would cost £1.95m.

MP Layla Moran, who had asked for the figures, said EU citizens "deserve an apology" for being confronted by the "mean-spirited" charge.

"These refunds are right and must be issued without delay, including to the public sector bodies that will have paid some of these charges," she said, suggesting that bodies including NHS trusts had already covered fees for EU-born workers.

The government says it will shortly publish details of the refund process for those who applied during two test phases, ahead of its full opening on 30 March.

Those granted settled status will continue to be able to work in the UK, apply for British citizenship, use the NHS or education system and access benefits and pension.

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