LEICESTER, United Kingdom – British Prime Minster Theresa May’s announcement that the government is scrapping a planned fee for EU citizens remaining in the UK has been welcomed by the Catholic Church.
“I am pleased that the government has abandoned plans to charge EU citizens for securing their existing rights,” said Bishop Paul McAleenan the lead bishop for migration and asylum for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The government had announced last summer that EU adults would have to pay a little over $85 to register under the proposed EU Settlement Scheme. EU citizens would have had to pay nearly $45 to register each of their children.
On Monday, May said the fee had been axed.
“I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on March 30, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. Anyone who has applied during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed,” she told Parliament.
The United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the 28-nation European Union on June 23, 2016. However, several issues remain to be ironed out during the drawn-out divorce, including the rights of the estimated 3 million EU citizens living in Britain.
“I am pleased that the government has abandoned plans to charge EU citizens for securing their existing rights,” McAleenan said in a statement. “As I conveyed to the immigration minister earlier this year, such charges would not only be unjust, but would also create an unnecessary barrier for many people accessing the settlement scheme.”
The majority of EU citizens are Catholics, and the bishop said the “Church stands in solidarity with all EU citizens who have made their home here and we will continue to engage with the government as the scheme is implemented.”
May’s Brexit deal with the EU was rejected by Parliament last week in a historic defeat for the government – but she is hoping an amended deal can pass before the country leaves the trading bloc.
The prime minister also rejected the idea of extending Britain’s EU membership to give negotiations more time, as well as quashing any proposal of holding a second referendum on EU membership.