Brexit: Rise in Brits renouncing UK citizenship after vote to leave EU

The number of people giving up their British citizenship has fallen since Brexit, according to new figures Independent to discover.

A Freedom of Information request shows that 868 people have applied to surrender British passports in 2021.

This was a 30 percent increase from 2020 and six times more than a decade ago – when only around 140 people did so a year.

A total of 6,507 people applied to renounce their British citizenship between 2011 and 2021.

Reasons for giving up vary from person to person, says Mariem Ahmed, head of immigration at specialist firm OTS Solicitors. “It depends on everyone’s preferences and circumstances,” she said.

The most common reason is when someone wants to obtain citizenship of another country which, unlike the UK, restricts or prohibits dual citizenship.

Ms Ahmed said one former client had to give up his British citizenship to get the Chinese citizenship he needed to play for a football team there.

Another client renounced his UK passport to become a citizen of Singapore, which is necessary to access certain rights in that country, such as buying property.

While restrictions on dual citizenship are a long-standing issue, Brexit has created new complications for some British citizens living in the EU.

Post-Brexit there has been an increase in the number of Britons applying for non-UK passports in order to enjoy the rights of EU citizenship.

This includes countries such as France, Belgium or Ireland

However, for other countries, such as Spain or the Netherlands, dual UK citizenship is not allowed in most cases.

And from the end of 2020, similar restrictions came into effect for those seeking German citizenship.

British citizens living in those countries may face a difficult choice, says Professor Michaela Benson, a citizenship expert at Lancaster University who has been researching the situation of British citizens in the EU since the referendum.

Various schemes in those countries allowed them to obtain residence permits after Brexit. But to get full rights – including voting in elections – it may mean giving up your UK passport to naturalise.

This is especially true for people of working age “who want to become competitive in the European labor market,” she said. Having an EU passport and the right to freedom of movement that comes with it are essential.

“This means that if people want full citizenship rights in the countries they live in, they may have to take that country’s citizenship and give up their British citizenship.”

She added: “Spain is interesting because it is home to probably the largest population of British citizens in the EU. And that was what the British citizens living there meant throughout the negotiations, that they were not like their compatriots in France, that they were not in a position to acquire Spanish citizenship, but that they retained British citizenship.

Renouncing your British passport means giving up your right to move freely back to the UK, needing a visa to stay in the country and losing your right to vote.

Asked about the rise in the number of people renouncing their British citizenship, a Home Office spokesman said: “Most people who choose to renounce their British citizenship do so to gain or retain citizenship in another country which, unlike the UK, does not allow for dual citizenship “.

They added that anyone who has renounced their citizenship can apply to renew it in accordance with the British Nationality Act, but that this is at the discretion of the Home Secretary.

There are no plans to offer an automatic right to continue.

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