BORIS Johnson is being urged to make a last minute U-turn on the settled status scheme amid fears hundreds of thousands of EU citizens are set to be “stripped of their rights overnight”.

The UK Government set a deadline of today, June 30, for Europeans to apply for the right to stay – but ministers have repeatedly been warned that backlogs in the Home Office system mean people could lose their right to rent, work, and access healthcare and benefits.

The SNP are demanding a rethink amid fears the “cliff edge” could lead to Scotland’s NHS, care, and hospitality and tourism sectors losing thousands of vital workers, putting the country’s economy further at risk following Brexit and the pandemic.

It comes as new research reveals more than 100,000 people have waited for more than three months for their applications to the EU Settlement Scheme to be processed.

Some 102,000 EU citizens and family members, including 23,900 children, had applications outstanding for more than three months as of May 7, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said. Applications for 13,000 people, including 650 children, had been outstanding for at least six months – while 8000 people, including 285 children, have waited at least a year.

The figures were obtained following a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office.

Since then, a flurry of applications ahead of the deadline on June 30 has led to a growing backlog of cases, the IPPR warned.

The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader made a direct appeal to Number 10 on the day of the application deadline.

Kirsten Oswald said: “This is the Prime Minister’s last chance to prevent hundreds of thousands of EU nationals being stripped of their rights overnight, as well as a hammer blow to Scotland’s economy and NHS. I am urging him to take it and scrap the deadline.

“He must wake up to the reality that the arbitrary settled status deadline poses huge and unnecessary risks to livelihoods, given people could lose their right to work, rent, and access vital healthcare and benefits, and industries such as hospitality and farming, who are already struggling to recruit as a result of Brexit, could face further difficulties if people can’t prove their right to work.

“Scotland and the people who live here cannot take – and do not deserve – another hit after 10 years of Tory austerity, Brexit and a global health pandemic. Indeed, if the Tories hadn't dragged Scotland out of the EU against our will in the first place we wouldn’t be facing such a disaster waiting to happen.”

The UK Government has pledged that anyone who applies by the deadline will have their existing rights protected, subject to the decision and any appeal.

It typically takes around five working days for complete applications to be processed, but it can take longer than a month if more information is needed, and the Home Office has not committed to completing all applications by today.

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Anyone who can show “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline can apply late, but if they do not apply by the deadline and have no other valid leave to remain they will become unlawfully present in the UK.

Late applicants could then face months waiting for their applications to be processed while being unable to start a new job, enter into a new tenancy agreement, obtain a driving licence or make a new benefit claim.

Oswald added: “All of this could be avoided if the UK Government would just heed the widespread warnings and scrap the deadline – or better yet, implement a declaratory system whereby EU nationals in the UK are automatically granted settled status.

“However, this whole debacle shows once again that the Tories don’t care about people’s livelihoods or Scotland – their only priority is to make the rich richer. The only way we can truly protect Scotland - the people that live here and our economy – is to become independent.”

The IPPR is calling for EUSS applicants who are waiting for their application to be approved, including late applicants, to have their rights fully protected.

It also wants the UK Government to expand the set of people considered to have reasonable grounds to apply late, to include vulnerable people such as the elderly, those with no permanent address, those who have suffered bereavement and those living in destitution.

Amreen Qureshi, IPPR researcher and report co-author, warned there is the risk of a scandal similar to Windrush emerging as the EUSS deadline passes.

She said: "The Windrush scandal exposed the devastating impacts of the hostile environment on people who had every right to be here, many of whom had come to the UK as children. Now as the EU Settlement Scheme ends there is a risk of a similar scandal unfolding.

"Like with Windrush, children and young people without status after June 30 could face barriers to entering the workplace or higher education as they grow up. Delays to late applications could make their experiences even more difficult and stressful.

"Given our analysis highlights that thousands of applications have been taking months to resolve, the Government must act now to ensure that individuals' status will be protected while they wait."

Kevin Foster, Tory Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, insisted anyone who applies by today will have their rights protected until a decision on their application is made.

He continued: "Since the EUSS launched in March 2019, there have been more than 5.6 million applications and more than 5 million grants of status. I would encourage anyone eligible who hasn't applied, or has not done so on behalf of their children, to apply now.

"Thanks to our targeted campaigns and communications to encourage parents to apply for their children, we have seen a rise in applications from under 18s, which accounts for higher numbers of applications being processed.

"We have already issued non-exhaustive guidance on what we will consider reasonable grounds for a late application, and to employers on signposting eligible employees to the EUSS."