THERESA May was urged to drop the £65 fee being foisted upon EU citizens who want to live in Britain after Brexit.

The controversial charge, dubbed “pay to stay”, will mean EU nationals who want to continue living in the country after December 31, 2020 will need to apply to the Government’s EU settlement scheme, which will check their identity, UK residence status and criminal record.

Fees for the process will be £65 for an adult and £32.50 for children under 16, though it will be free for those who already have a permanent residence card or indefinite leave to remain.

The SNP MP Drew Hendry raised the levy in the Commons yesterday, saying “friends, neighbours, colleagues, people vital to the Scottish economy” were “shamefully” being told to “pay to stay in their own homes”.

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He asked the Prime Minister what would happen to those not registered by December 2020, when the UK’s Brexit transition is due to end.

“Does she realise that, for those affected, this feels less like a hostile environment and more like a xenophobic one?” he added.

May replied: “We recognise the huge contribution that EU citizens have made to our economy and our society and we want them to stay.

“The EU settlement scheme will make it simple and straightforward for them to get the status that they need. EU citizens have until June 2021 to apply and the cost of applying is less than the cost of renewing a British passport.”

There was criticism too from her own side, with MP Huw Merriman pleading with May to drop the fine.

“Given that this was a decision by the UK public, surely we should welcome our friends, neighbours and essential workforce from the EU and offer citizens’ residency free of charge, so that they can stay in this country at our cost,” he asked.

May disagreed. “The £65 fee to apply for status under the scheme is in line with the current cost of obtaining permanent residence documentation and it will, of course, contribute to the overall costs of the system, but applications will be free of charge for those who hold valid permanent residence documentation or valid indefinite leave to enter or remain, and for children being looked after by a local authority.

She added: “Where an application is granted pre-settled status under the scheme, there will, from April 2019, be no fee for applying for settled status. As I said in an earlier response to another member, the EU settlement scheme will make it simple and straightforward for people to get the status that they need.”

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In 2017, Nicola Sturgeon promised to pick up the cost for all of Scottish Government employees who are EU citizens including those working in Scotland’s hospitals, schools, universities and public agencies.

Earlier this week, the UK Government said they had no intention of doing the same.

“The fee is set at an affordable rate, less than the cost of a UK passport,” said Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden.

The SNP administration had been intending to pay the fee directly but was rebuffed by the Home Office. Details of the scheme are yet to be revealed but it will involve EU citizens paying up front and being reimbursed by the Scottish Government.