UK has more EU citizens than some member states, says Gove

Fears that Brexit would cause talented people to return to EU countries 'unfounded'

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove arrives to attend a Cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
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The UK has granted settled status to 4.3 million EU citizens, more than the population of some of the bloc's member states, a senior minister said on Monday.

After the 2016 Brexit vote, some employers and universities warned that the UK would haemorrhage talent and that EU citizens would return home.

EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens and their families can apply for settled status to continue living in Britain after June 30, 2021, if they started living in the country before December 31 2020.

"There have been 4.9 million applications and 4.3 million grants of status, so there are more EU citizens in the UK than in some member states, which is great," Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told a parliamentary committee.

"It is a great advertisement for this country. People have chosen to stay in unprecedented numbers.

"It gives a lie to some of the nonsense that was propagated at the time of the Brexit vote that somehow the UK was less welcoming or that EU citizens would leave, or that there would be harm to our universities or to our healthcare sector."

The UK has more EU citizens than member states such as Slovenia, Malta, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus, Croatia and Estonia, EU population figures show.

Official British figures show that EU citizens continue to move to the UK and that there is still net migration from the bloc.