Nearly five million EU citizens, more than all the people who live in Croatia, have applied for settled status in Britain after Brexit.
Applications for permanent post-Brexit residency can continue to be made until June 30 this year but only by those living in the UK on December 31.
4.9 million people, which is only slightly less than the population of Ireland, have applied for settled status and 4.3 million have been granted it.
Michael Gove quoted the Home Office figures, which were released in late January, during questioning by MPs yesterday.
“There are more EU citizens in the UK than in some member states – which is great,” the Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told a parliamentary committee.
“It is a great advertisement for this country,” Mr Gove said, “People have chosen to stay in unprecedented numbers.”
The figure, which could still increase before the deadline, is greater than the total population of seven individual EU member states.
If the group of EU citizens living in Britain were an EU member state it would be 20th out of 27 in terms of population.
Croatia, which is the latest country to join the EU, has about 4m people. Lithuania has 2.7m, and Slovenia and Latvia about 2m inhabitants, according to 2020 figures from the Eurostat agency.
Estonia has about 1.3m people, while Cyprus has 888,000 and Luxembourg and Malta weighing in with more than a half a million people. EU citizens can still apply for residency if they were not living in Britain by December 31, which was the last day of the transition period.
Those applications will be treated as any other from a would-be immigrant rather than the EU-specific settled status scheme.
There were an estimated 3.5m EU citizens in the UK before the Brexit referendum, although it is impossible to know the true figure because Britain has no registration or ID card system.—AP