British people are scrambling to secure passports from other EU countries following the UK's vote in favour of Brexit. The Irish minister for foreign affairs and trade, Charlie Flanagan, confirmed there had been a spike of interest in Irish passports from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, while the number of Brits applying for Swedish passports in the two days since the 23 June 2016 vote hit a record high.
There were reportedly 4,000 enquiries for Irish passports made to the Irish Embassy and Post Offices in Northern Ireland on 27 June compared with the usual 200 they have daily, Reuters has reported.
Flanagan said in a statement: "Following the UK referendum, there has been a spike in interest in Irish passports in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and elsewhere, although there has been some exaggeration of demand. The increased interest clearly points to a sense of concern among some UK passport-holders that the rights they enjoy as EU citizens are about to abruptly end. I want to state clearly that this is not the case.
"The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union, but it has not yet left. It will take some time for negotiations on a British exit to conclude: Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty envisages a two-year negotiation process once the article is triggered, while many speculate this could take longer. During this period, the UK remains a member of the European Union, its citizens continue to fully enjoy EU rights, including free movement of people within the EU. At the same time, the referendum has not in any way changed the entitlement to an Irish passport, which extends to those born on the island of Ireland and those claiming citizenship through parents or grandparents born in Ireland.
"An unnecessary surge in applications for Irish passports will place significant pressure on the system and on turnaround times and is likely to impact those with a genuine need for passports to facilitate imminent travel plans."
How many Britons live in other European countries?
- There are an estimated 1.2 million Brits living in other European countries, with the majority living in Spain, Ireland, France and Germany, according to data from Migration Watch UK taken in March 2016 and shown in the table below:
The minister also reiterated the necessary criteria to apply for the passport, which is potentially available to a reasonable portion – with around a quarter of Brits claiming Irish descent but only one in ten having an Irish grandparent.
In order to get an Irish passport, applicants must have a parent or grandparent who was an Irish citizen born in Ireland.
In Sweden, the number of passport applications from Brits increased five-fold a day after the referendum – with 129 people applying in one week compared with 20 people a week in the months preceding the Brexit vote.
Overall last year, just 440 people from the UK applied for a Swedish passport, while 129 people applied last week – 100 of them making the application in the three days following the vote.
It is a record number for a single week, but it is too early to say if it is a trend that will last," Annette Grafen Silander, head of the citizenship unit at the Swedish Migration Agency, told Sweden's Sveriges Radio.
However, she added that Brits applying for Swedish passports may have to wait for up to 18 months, as there is currently a backlog in the system – meaning a second passport isn't necessarily an easy fix for Brits looking to remain in the EU.
Given there are an estimated 1.2 million Britons living in other European countries, there is expected to be a surge in requests for permanent citizenship in places such as Spain, as the eventual outcome for Brits abroad post-Brexit remains unclear – although there are to be no changes in the short term.