Official figures show that the number of British citizens who have applied to acquire the nationality of another EU member state has surged since the Brexit referendum. Since the referendum in 2016 more than 350,000 UK citizens have applied for citizenship of other EU state as a form of post-Brexit, some even giving up UK citizenship so as to retain their EU rights after Brexit.
Ireland, which enjoys strong historical connections with the UK, has been the most popular EU passport for dual-national Britons. In 2015, for the first time, just over 32,000 Northern Irish and British citizens applied for Irish citizenship.
The numbers have increased almost fourfold in the last four years with 131,817 new applications for Irish passports, with nearly 55,000 from Great Britain alone.
The increase was most dramatic among those born in Great Britain who were applying for the first time for an Irish passport, rather than a renewal. The numbers went up from 7,372 in 2015 to 54,859 in 2019, according to data supplied for Ireland’s foreign affairs department.
There have also been increases in dual UK nationals in Germany and France, where there has been a tenfold rise in the naturalisation of British citizens.
Thus, between 2016 and 2020, nearly 360,000 people born in the UK have applied to acquire or renew an EU passport in nine of the countries that supplied data.
In Spain, where the greatest concentration of Britons living elsewhere in the EU is found, dual nationality for Britons is not possisble, the numbers are low but there has been a sharp rise since the 2016 referendum.
Of the estimated 600,000 British people who live there just 209 applied for a Spanish passport in 2018, the last year for which data is available, but this is compared with just 50 applications in 2015 and 33 in 2016.
Despite many thousand Britons working in Brussels, the number of naturalisations for Belgium are also low, but there has been a distinct upward trend since the 2016 referendum with 1,403 in 2019 compared with 506 in 2016 and just 127 in 2015.
Swedish passports granted to Britons rose from 942 in 2015 to 4,267 in 2019, while in Germany the numbers skyrocketed from 622 in 2015 to 6,640 in 2018.
In France, where large numbers of British people live, the numbers are also relatively small but the pattern is the same: in 2015 just 320 Britons acquired French nationality; in 2019 that had increased to 3,827, according to government data.
The numbers in Italy have also grown steadily, with 266 applications in 2016 for an Italian passport rising to 731 the year after and 657 and 586 in 2018 and 2019.
Data for Denmark and Finland also show increases in the past four years although numbers remain in the hundreds.
When a sample of The Guardian readership who had been in contact with the paper was asked to explain why they, or their family members had sought out EU citizenship, they responded in various way.
Paul Stock, a solicitor from Saddleworth, had this to say regarding his decision to return to his German roots: