THE UK was forced to extend the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme at the last minute due to “exceptionally high volumes” of submissions.

Boris Johnson’s administration was repeatedly warned that a backlog at the Home Office meant it was unlikely all cases would be dealt with before the deadline, June 30.

The uncertainty had sparked fears that Europeans in the UK could lose their right to rent and work, as well as access to healthcare and benefits.

Ian Blackford demanded an extension to the scheme at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, warning hundreds of thousands of applicants were being left in “limbo”.

Johnson was nonetheless bullish about the scheme, hailing it as an “outstanding success”.

He refused to countenance extending the deadline and promised that anyone who applied by midnight “will of course have their had their case dealt with”.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson told to scrap settlement deadline as EU citizens 'left in limbo'

However, shortly before 11.30pm last night, the Home Office announced that the deadline would be pushed back after all.

“We are seeing exceptionally high volumes of applications to the EU #SettlementScheme,” the Home Office tweeted. “If you are on the website waiting to apply, please continue. Your application will be accepted as in time, even if it is submitted after midnight.”

SNP MP John Nicolson replied: “An extension which the Prime Minister yesterday told @Ianblackford_MP was out of the question when he asked for it at #PMQs.

“What an incompetent shower.”

Today, SNP MP Pete Wishart demanded an urgent update amid “confusion and chaos” at the Home Office.

In response, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg hailed the apparent success of the settlement scheme, claiming the Home Office has handled the process “extraordinarily well and efficiently”.

“Officials there deserve considerable gratitude from the nation for handling it so smoothly, considering the very much higher number of people who were eligible than the Office for National Statistics thought were in the country,” he added.

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Leader of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council, Jacob Rees-Mogg departs from Downing Street on October 16, 2019 in London, England. UK and EU negotiators continue to try to reach a withdrawal agreement ahead

The SNP called on the UK Government to extend the deadline indefenitely.

Immigration spokesperson Anne McLaughlin commented: “There is still time for the UK Government to see sense and extend the settled status deadline – or better yet, scrap it altogether. The high volumes of applications reported by the Home Office show that this would be the sensible thing to do.

“But as we have seen, the Tories seem to have no interest in protecting hundreds of thousands – who live here, paid their taxes here and contributed to society – from being stripped of their rights, proving once again that Scotland is vulnerable under Westminster control.

“The only way we can protect the EU nationals in Scotland, and everyone that lives here, is with the full powers of independence.”

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Launched in March 2019, the settlement scheme was drawn up by the Tory government to allow EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to apply for permission to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Downing Street dismissed calls to automatically grant right to remain for these citizens, meaning millions of people in the UK were forced to apply.

Home Office figures show 5.6 million applications had been received by May 31, with 52% granted settled status – indefinite leave to remain living and working in the UK. A further 43% have been given “pre-settled” status, granting them leave to remain for five years.

One in 50 (2%) applications have been rejected.

Yet recent figures show 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.

Applicants are automatically issued with a Certificate of Application, which Tory ministers insist will ensure none lose their right to work or rent.

“From 1 July, they will be able to rely on their Certificate of Application as proof to access their right to work or rent, when verified by the relevant Home Office checking service,” Immigration minister Kevin Foster said.

“This means no-one will be unable to work due to their intime application to the EU Settlement Scheme not having being decided before the deadline for applications.”