The Brits who are applying for European passports because of Brexit
PUBLISHED: 11:31 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:50 10 January 2019
Since the EU referendum, there has been a surge in the number of British people applying for passports from EU countries. And behind the figures, there are stories of people who are torn between the country of their birthplace, and their feelings of being European.
According to research done by the BBC, from 17 out of 27 EU member states, the number of Britons granted citizenship of another EU country increased by 158% between 2016 and 2017.
The motivations are not primarily financial, as Britons will only have to pay €7 (£6.30) every three years to travel to EU countries as a consequence of Brexit.
We explore the reasons that have driven some people in Suffolk and North Essex to apply to become European nationals.
‘As I grow older, I feel a deeper connection to my Maltese roots’
Ian Sinnott, an English teacher and dad-of-three who lives in Colchester.
His mother is Maltese and his father is British, although after his mother died when he was seven, he moved back to the UK and later had to renounce his Maltese citizenship.
His British passport enabled him as an adult to teach English across the world, in Japan, South Korea and the UAE. After the referendum vote, Mr Sinnott decided to lean on his Maltese heritage and apply for a Maltese passport. Malta has just been named as the ninth most powerful passport in the world in the Henley Passport Index - although the UK came ahead, in sixth position.
“I truly believe that being part of the EU is very important for me and my family. I have always enjoyed being able to visit my family in Malta without any restrictions imposed on me and my family, and there has always been a part of me that feels Maltese. I have blue eyes and had blonde hair (before going bald!), so I never really looked Maltese.
“And in some ways I’m very British - I’m a diehard Liverpool fan, and my favourite foods are pork pies, cornish pasties and baked beans! But I can still speak fluent Maltese, and as I grow older, I feel a deeper connection to my Maltese roots.
“After March 29, I believe it will be more problematic for all of us in the UK to travel around Europe. I would like my children to have the same opportunities that I’ve had all my life to travel, and even maybe live within the EU, without any restrictions imposed on them.
“I believe very strongly that being part of the EU is the only way forward for a brighter future for our children.”
‘I’ve always felt as much European as I’ve felt British, English or Suffolk’
The number of Brits applying for an Irish passport soared 22 per cent in the last year, at more than double the amount of annual applications than before the 2016 Brexit referendum. One of those is Angela Bishop, a marketing consultant from Stratford St Mary.
“I cried when the referendum result came through.
“I’ve always felt as much European as I’ve felt British, English or Suffolk, and the thought of having this part of my identity torn away from me was very painful.
“I’m lucky that my father was born in Northern Ireland. I didn’t know it until I did my research, but this meant that I had always been an Irish citizen, ever since I was born, and I qualified for an Irish passport.”
“There are two reasons why I wanted to get an EU passport.
“The first was emotional, so that I could prove I was still European, as well as British, and to still feel connected to the EU and what it stands for: peace, cooperation, working together, tolerance, rationality.
“The second was more practical - I want to be able to work and travel freely across my continent, and an EU passport means I can do that.
“It’s been a bit of a bureaucratic process, having to get official copies of the birth and marriage certificates from Northern Ireland and England, and various documents proving my identity signed by qualified people, but it’s definitely worth it.”
‘I bumped into an old friend recently...now I’m Belgian and he’s Portuguese’
Richard Tuffs, 66, is from Stowmarket but has been living in Belgium for more than 30 years, and is married to a Belgian citizen. He works for a European network involved in research and innovation which works with the UK regions, including the East of England.
“I applied to an EU passport straight away after the referendum, just because of the uncertainty over what was going to happen. And it’s still so uncertain over whether we would get rights to nationality. It took four and a half months, once I’d put in my application.
“I’m not the only one, most of the British people I know in Belgium of my age range have all applied for EU nationality. I bumped into an old friend recently and although we were both British last time we met, now I’m Belgian and he’s Portuguese.
“When I come back to Suffolk, I’m happy to be here and I like the UK. But I am very upset this referendum decision has been made, because I believe it’s a lose-lose for the UK and for Europe.