In a vote of confidence in Britain, growing numbers of applications for British citizenship are being submitted by European Union (EU) nationals ahead of June’s Brexit referendum.
There are more than two million EU nationals living in Britain, with migrants from Poland representing the largest single group. In addition to Poles there are increasing numbers from the southern European nations such as Portugal, Spain and Greece.
Those living here are legitimately concerned about their status as EU migrants should the Leave campaign win the referendum and achieve Brexit from the politico-economic union. The Independent reports scare stories including fears of threats of being ordered out of the UK, losing reciprocal healthcare arrangements and, at the other send of the serious scale, facing longer queues at border controls when traveling through British ports or airports.
The response does not, however, seem to be plotting an escape route if Britain leaves the EU. On the contrary, warnings from immigration law specialists that a Brexit vote could leave some EU nationals without their current automatic right to stay in Britain have lead to a surge in the number of applicants for British citizenship being submitted by such applicants.
Heeding the advice of lawyers who have recommended that people concerned about their long-term status consider applying for a British passports, many are doing so having concluded that they are sufficiently confident about the future of Britain outside the EU to want to make their home here.
As well as having lived in the country for at least five years, and passing an English language test, those wishing to qualify for permanent residency or a UK passport must score 75 per cent or more in a test that covers British history, culture, law and government.
Red Squirrel Publishing, a publisher of citizenship test textbooks, says sales have quadrupled since June’s EU referendum was finalised. In January the company sold 2,270 copies of its titles, followed by a further 2,179 in February. In December it only sold 570.
Managing Editor George Sandison said the company was rushing through a reprint of the textbooks to meet demand, adding:
“The announcement of the referendum date has definitely brought home just how uncertain the future is. The process for obtaining British citizenship is time-consuming, so it is no surprise that people are suddenly looking to complete this process as quickly as possible.”