EU citizens who miss a deadline to apply for settled status in the UK will not be forced to leave the country, the government has reaffirmed.
European Union Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstad said earlier today he was assured by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay there would be no automatic deportations.
The Home Office later released a statement confirming this and stressed it had always been the case.
Campaigners raised concerns of another Windrush-style scandal when Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said in October EU citizens may be forced to leave if they miss the deadline, which is June 30, 2021, including a grace period.
With hundreds of thousands of people yet to apply for the right to live and work in the UK after Brexit, Mr Verhofstadt said he had questioned Mr Barclay over previous ‘contradictions’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I wanted to be sure that there is no automatic deportation of these people even after the grace period because it can be people who are very vulnerable.
‘The idea would be that even for these people after the grace period they will have the possibility to apply giving the grounds for why it was not possible to do it within the normal procedures.’
The Home Office said ‘some of the misconceptions we’ve seen about the settlement scheme have been unhelpful when our focus is on providing reassurance’.
A statement added: ‘We have made it clear that, where people have reasonable grounds for missing the original deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.’
Mr Verhofstad had previously threatened the European Parliament will veto the Brexit deal if it did not win assurances over EU citizens.
He also said in the interview that those successful in claiming settled status would also receive printouts of the confirmation as well as being able to show it as a PDF on their mobile.
He told Today: ‘They (the government) 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.’
The Home Office replied: ‘There is no change to our digital approach. It has always been the case that people could print a copy of their confirmation letter, but this can’t be used as evidence of status.
‘The EU settlement scheme grants people with a secure, digital status which future-proofs their rights. Physical documents can get lost, stolen, damaged and tampered with.’
So far, more than 2.7 million people have been granted the right to live and work in the UK under the settlement scheme.
But a significant number still need to apply if they wish to remain, as there are an estimated 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK.
The UK is set to leave the EU on January 31 and further 11-month period of negotiations on a comprehensive deal is expected.