Brussels readies for Brexit showdown with UK over EU citizens blunder

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EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic is said to be preparing to scold the UK over a mistake by the Home Office on the assignment of benefits to EU citizens in living in Britain post-Brexit, after a meeting with concerned leaders of member states. Europeans refused the right to remain in the UK after Brexit were mistakenly paid benefits, it emerged last month.

A Home Office blunder meant some of the 141,000 people refused EU Settled Status received cash – despite being ineligible.

After telling the applicants they had been unsuccessful officials did not then update their visas database, it is alleged.

This meant those ­applications were still ­considered “pending” and the EU ­citizens were able to claim benefits.

A watchdog warned some of the migrants were mistakenly paid for months.

The Home Office is now going to try to recover the money.

The mistake has raised eyebrows in Brussels where EU diplomats have said that Poland, Romania, Belgium and Ireland have urged Sefcovic to act.

One EU diplomat told the Financial Times: “Welfare payments will now cease and some may have to pay back money. The risk of these people plunging into poverty is high.

“It will be a total surprise to them that they no longer have the right to live in the UK.

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“The Commission said it is trying to obtain clarification from the British and is carrying out a legal analysis of the situation.”

Another diplomat added: “Protection of EU citizens’ rights is a priority for us.”

The Independent Monitoring Authority, a body set to protect the rights of EU citizens, urged the Home Office to explain how “erroneous statuses” stayed in the department’s system for months and it expressed fears the EU Settlement Scheme was not fit for purpose.

It said: “The status error raises grave concerns regarding both the validity and integrity of the digital system.

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“The accuracy of the ­digital document provided to citizens is fundamental.”

But the Home Office said: “The online digital status for some EU Settlement Scheme applicants who were refused status has been updated in line with the decision taken on their application.

“These had already been communicated to the ­individuals concerned.

“We are working across government and with the EU and member states to ­understand any further implications and to ensure the situation is managed quickly and pragmatically.”

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