The £65 fee demanded of EU citizens who register to continue living in the UK after Brexit is to be scrapped, Prime Minister Theresa May announced today.
She delivered the news that will delight millions of EU residents in the UK in a statement responding to the defeat of her Brexit withdrawal bill last week.
The Prime Minister told MPs in the Commons that she would attempt to negotiate changes to the controversial Irish backstop clause in the deal struck with the EU.
But she refused to rule out the prospect of a no-deal Brexit if any amended proposal she brought back was again voted down by MPs.
She also rejected growing calls for a second EU referendum, saying it could threaten the UK’s social cohesion, adding. “Our duty is to implement the decision of the first one.”
“I fear a second referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country,” she added.
“Not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break up our United Kingdom. It would require an extension of Article 50.
“We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.
“There has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.”
Afterwards, she was accused by Labour and Tory rebels of being in denial about the opposition to her deal – defeated by 230 votes in the Commons last week.
MPs will vote on a modified version of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal deal next Tuesday, but it is not clear what will change between now and then.
Mrs May said she would adopt “a flexible, open and inclusive” approach to negotiating a future relationship with the EU if her deal was approved.
The Prime Minister said she would consult Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and others on the backstop before heading back to Brussels for talks.
The DUP and Tory Brexiteers and Northern Ireland’s DUP want legally binding changes to the backstop provisions in her withdrawal deal agreed with the EU.
Referring to her decision to scrap the £65 fee for EU citizens applying for ‘settled status’ to live here after Brexit, Mrs May said she had listened to their concerns.
Applicants must have lived in the UK for five years and the status gives them the same rights as UK citizens to access healthcare, education and other services.