Processing EU citizens' applications to stay in Britain 'could take 50 years'

Government ministers continue to refuse to guarantee post-Brexit rights of Europeans in UK

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EU citizens living in the UK could have to wait up to 50 years for their visa applications to be processed after Brexit, the Scottish National Party has claimed.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, SNP leader Angus Robertson said the Home Office’s current rate of processing applications for permanent residency meant it would take half a century to get through requests from 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK. 

Despite demands from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, the Government has consistently refused to guarantee that EU citizens will be allowed to remain in the UK post-Brexit. 

Ministers say they will not make any promises until other EU countries guarantee the residency rights of UK citizens living in Europe. 

Mr Robertson said: “At current rates of processing applications, it would take the Home Office more than 50 years to deal with applications from 3.2 million people”.

This timeframe was “totally and utterly unacceptable”, he added, blaming the fact the number of full-time Home Office staff has been cut by 10 per cent.

In response, the Prime Minister re-iterated her desire for an early deal on the residency rights.

“We do want to have an early agreement which will enable us to guarantee the status of European living the in the UK”, she said. “But also we need to guarantee the status of UK citizens living in the the EU. 

“As regards the process of application, the Home Office is looking at this, looking at how they can improve the systems and simplify them."

The Prime Minister said the Home Office was “getting more efficient”.

The House of Commons Brexit Committee has said the current process for considering residency applications “is not fit for purpose and in the absence of any concrete resolution to relieve the anxiety felt by the estimated 3 million EU citizens resident in the UK, it is untenable to continue with the system as it stands”.