LONDON: Britain's interior ministry was accused of poor timing and insensitive language on Friday (Dec 28) after tweeting out a "jolly" post-Christmas message telling EU nationals they have to apply to stay after Brexit.
The Home Office on Thursday tweeted a video with information about the EU settlement scheme, which is planned to be fully up and running by Mar 30, 2019 - a day after Britain is set to leave the European Union.
"We guess being reminded over Christmas of the 'need to apply' to stay in the country we call home .... will go down pretty badly in households across the UK. Poor timing @UKhomeoffice," The3Million, a campaign group for EU nationals living in Britain, said on Twitter.
EU nationals who want to stay in Britain have to apply by Jun 30, 2021 and will be charged £65 (US$83) each for people aged 16 or over and £32.50 for under-16s.
The scheme, which is currently being tested, will ask for proof of identity and proof of residence and will also check whether applicants have a criminal record.
EU nationals who have lived in Britain for five years or more can apply for "settled status", which is permanent.
Those who have lived in Britain for under five years can apply for "pre-settled status" which will allow them to stay and acquire permanent status after five years.
Britain is yet to unveil detailed proposals on the immigration for EU nationals arriving after Brexit.
Stella Creasy, an MP from the main opposition Labour Party, criticised the policy of charging EU nationals to apply.
"EU friends and neighbours - you deserve so much better than this. UK - be better than this," she tweeted.
Creasy said it was "a jolly message this Christmas from govt to say Brexit means we want to charge you to live in the country you have made your home".
Ed Davey, an MP from the Liberal Democrats, a minor opposition party that supports Britain staying in the EU, said: "Brexit-backing MPs should hang their heads in shame.
"Look at what you are doing to millions of our fellow citizens who have lived & worked in our country for years."
Fraser Nelson from the Spectator magazine wrote that the Home Office tweet was "sinister" and "quite disgusting".
"The idea that if you want to 'continue living' in Britain then you need to 'apply' - rather than register-- is unforgivable," he wrote.