The number of EU nationals seeking a British citizenship has soared since the EU referendum
During the past year, thousands of people who have lived in the UK for many years have now applied for a British passport in what is believed to be a bid to retain their position in the UK.
As many as 9,400 EU applicants sought UK citizenship during the first quarter of this year – a staggering three times as many applicants as in the same period as last year, according to figures obtained by an FT Freedom of Information request.
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This is definitely because of Brexit
Patricia Connell, the chief executive of France in London
Candidates from the founding EU states – including France, Germany and Italy – have more than quadrupled to 4,790, the highest figure in at least seven years.
The largest number applicants were from France. The number of applicants increased from 209 to 848 between the first quarter of 2016 and the same period this year.
German hopefuls seeking British citizenship closely followed, as the number of applications rose from 163 to 832.
Patricia Connell, the chief executive of France in London, an online guide for expats, said people were seeking British citizenship as an “insurance policy”.
She told the newspaper: “This is definitely because of Brexit. People want to make sure they will be able to stay here.
“You have to remember, initially people thought it was going to be a soft Brexit, now there is more and more talk of a hard Brexit. People are worried.”
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EU citizens can apply to become British if they can prove they have been resident in the UK for five years and pass exams that assess their ability to speak the English language and their familiarity with British history and customs.
While EU citizens seeking British passports has increased, reports have shown Britons are seeking Irish passports has surged ahead of Brexit negotiations.
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UK applicants seeking Irish citizenship have increased by 70 per cent. Responding to the figures, Dan Mulhall, Ireland's ambassador to the UK, said the “dramatic” rise was partly driven by people exploiting their familial links to the country in order to continue to enjoy the benefits of EU membership.
His comments come as the latest figures showed a "statistically significant" drop of 84,000 in net migration to the UK.
Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch, disparaged Jeremy Corbyn for his inability to pledge a reduction in migration levels should he become Prime Minister.