France and Britain flag
3,173 Britons applied for French citizenship in 2017, compared with 386 in 2015. REUTERS/ Philippe Wojazer

The number of Britons applying for French citizenship has increased eightfold since the runup to the Brexit referendum, according to new figures released by France's interior ministry.

In 2015, 386 Britons applied for French citizenship. The following year, when the Brexit referendum was held, the number of applications rose to 1,363.

Last year as the Brexit process started to bite, 3,173 British citizens filed applications to become French.

Over the same period, the number of UK nationals who were granted French citizenship rose from 320 to 1,518.

Many of the applications were motivated by practical reasons such as the wish to avoid long queues at airports or crossing the Channel, according to French newspaper Le Figaro. Applicants were also keen to ensure access to EU healthcare and social benefits after Brexit.

Immigration consultants say they have been inundated with requests for advice since the Brexit vote.

Fiona Mougenot, a Briton who runs a consultancy bureau in France, told Le Figaro: "Practical matters are important for our clients but for most the primary motivation is to stay European. Many could not vote in the referendum, are horrified by the prospect of Brexit and feel betrayed.

"France is vital to them because their lives are here. Beyond France it's Europe they don't want to abandon," Mougenot said.

Many of the applicants are UK nationals who live in France and are worried about the impact Brexit will have on their lives.

David Abbott, who moved to Niort in western France with his wife in 2004, told The Local: "We have long looked on France as our country and our home. Each year that has passed has seen us become more and more estranged from the UK and the path it is following.

"Having studied philosophy and history I am more in tune with the ethos of France. At the age of 71, I do not want to be thrown out of the country I love.

"I have much more in common and get on with French people rather than English people."