The Liberal Democrats have called on Boris Johnson to back automatic rights for EU citizens as more than a million fail to gain full settled status in the UK.
The number of applications submitted to the EU Settlement Scheme in December has hit more than 2.7 million (2,756,100), with 163,300 received in the last month, according to the Home Office.
But of the figures 44% were granted pre-settled status – which means they have temporary leave to remain and would need to apply again for permanent permission within five years.
The figures also show that a further 16,000 have not been granted either full or pre-settled status.
Pro-EU campaigners reiterated concerns that the figures indicated rising numbers of EU citizens being granted temporary rather than permanent leave to remain – claiming some were eligible for settled status.
The Home Office said pre-settled status was typically granted to people who have lived in the country for five years and insisted applicants had been first offered the chance to prove they qualified for settled status.
In October, security minister Brandon Lewis indicated EU citizens could be deported if they did not apply by the December 2020 deadline.
The Lib Dems have challenged Boris Johnson to provide automatic rights for EU citizens saying that the scheme leaves people at risk of eviction, detention or deportation.
The party is to table an amendment in the House of Lords calling for automatic rights for those living in the UK from the EU.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “EU citizens are our families and friends, our colleagues and carers. Boris Johnson promised to automatically guarantee their rights in law, but today’s figures show that his government’s Settled Status scheme is anything but automatic.
“Unless the government changes course, tens of thousands of EU citizens will be left without legal rights in less than 18 months – at risk of eviction, detention and deportation.
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for the rights of EU citizens. We are calling on Boris Johnson to honour his promise by backing our amendments next week.”
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay is meeting the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt for talks in London as Downing Street defended the UK’s approach – and called for EU states to reciprocate.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Our EU settlement scheme is providing certainty to millions of EU citizens across the country.
“It is far more than what other EU countries have done for UK nationals abroad. It’s now time for EU countries to step up and make the same generous offer to the UK nationals who live among them.”