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UK demands millions in refunds from EU nationals


The UK Government has angered Brussels with demands for the refund of millions of pounds in benefits apparently wrongly paid to European Union nationals after a Westminster Home Office error. EU officials have expressed “deep concerns”.

Following talks last week between the EU and UK Government on citizens’ rights, the two sides issued a joint statement: “The EU raised their deep concerns about the EU citizens who received a refusal decision between 27 June 2021 and 19 April 2022 but whose digital status did not accurately reflect this until January 2023, due to the operation of the EU Settlement Scheme.

“The EU asked for full transparency and clarity on this matter and expressed its disappointment regarding the UK’s plans on recovery of costs of some services and benefits,” the joint statement reads.

The EU called on the UK to find a “fair approach” for affected citizens.

Around 141,000 peoples’ rights agreed as part of Britain’s EU withdrawal deal could be affected, according to the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), which was set up following “Brexit”.

EU citizens who were lawfully living in the UK, prior to its leaving EU, had access to British government benefits. However, following the country’s departure from the Union, those who wanted to continue living in the UK, receive benefits and other rights, were asked by the UK government to apply to do so via the EU Settlement Scheme. That process allows EU citizens living in the UK to be granted the right to stay there indefinitely and be allowed to apply for full citizenship.

The fall-out erupted after the discovery that the records relating to thousands of EU nationals who had applied for settled status but had been refused – and had been notified of the decision by post – were not updated on the official database until several months later.

This resulted, it is claimed, in unsuccessful applicants continuing to receive benefits guaranteed by the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, including free access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and government welfare payments.

The apparent error came to light during a Home Office exercise to update the UK Visa and Immigration register, which included those individuals refused settled or pre-settled status under the settlement scheme.

While the issue on Thursday dominated a meeting of the Special Committee on Citizens Rights established by the UK and the EU, other matters raised for discussion included Member States’ concerns regarding property rights for UK nationals.

Alongside that, the possibility of UK nationals demonstrating multiple statuses under the long-term residence directive was also highlighted, as well as UK nationals with special statuses not being able to access rights guaranteed to them under the Withdrawal Agreement.