Five million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK permanently after Brexit – far higher than previous official estimates and larger than the population of seven European nations.
The Home Office has now received 4.9m applications under the EU settlement scheme and granted permanent resident status to 4.3m applicants so far.
Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta all have populations of less than five million.
An official population snapshot taken in June 2019 had suggested there were 3.4m EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK.
Immigration experts have previously criticised the quality of the Government’s data – which makes it hard to determine how many EU citizens in the UK are taking up the scheme.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told MPs on Monday: ‘It is a great advertisement for this country. People have chosen to stay in unprecedented numbers.’
‘It gives a lie to some of the nonsense that was propagated at the time of the Brexit vote that somehow the UK was less welcoming or that EU citizens would leave, or that there would be harm to our universities or to our healthcare sector.’
Around 700,000 foreign workers from across the world are believed to have left Britain during the pandemic between July and September, according to statistics from the Office for National Statistics.
But British official figures show that EU citizens continue to move to the UK and that there is still net EU migration.
People are eligible for settled status if they started living in the UK before the end of the transition period December 31, 2020. The deadline for applications is June 30 2021.
Those granted settled status will be allowed to stay in the UK for as long as they want and can also apply for British citizenship.
Usually, you would need to wait a year after getting settled status to apply for citizenship.
Home Secretary Priti Patel welcomed today’s figures, saying: ‘They are our friends, neighbours and colleagues and, from the very beginning, we have been clear we want them to stay.
‘That is why we put people at the heart of the scheme, knowing that behind these applications are stories of those who have established roots here.
‘We promised we would make it as straightforward as possible for them to continue living their lives here.
‘So I’m immensely proud that figures will show five million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.’
Ms Patel will also announced £5.4m of extra cash to help vulnerable EU citizens apply for settled status, The Sun reported.
Poles, Romanians and Italians top the scheme and 91 percent of the applications are from people wanting to stay in England.