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Naturalisation and (dis)integration for EU families in Brexiting Britain. Eurochildren Brief Series, no. 6

Sigona, Nando; Godin, Marie

The share of applications for British naturalization by EU residents in the UK has increased from 5% in 2007 to 26% in 2017. Just over 80,000 EU residents have applied for naturalization since the EU referendum. While a significant increase, many more EU citizens residing in the UK are still uncertain as to their legal status after Brexit and are considering their options.

Decisions to apply for naturalization have increased more markedly among EU nationals from ‘old’ EU member states (EU14) who, until the EU referendum, had felt their position in Britain as fully secure.

Among EU nationalsfrom Central and Eastern Europe (EU8 + EU2), application rates for naturalization have increased but less steeply, as they were applying for naturalization already before the EU referendum.

Decisions concerning naturalization are often family-minded and future-oriented. A range of economic, social and cultural considerations intervene, including application fees, eligibility restrictions, and the right to dual nationality. Family composition, in terms of country of birth of parents and children also play a role in the decision-making process.

In mixed nationality families, including in those with a UK-born partner, ‘going home’ is not an easy option to consider and securing status is the option that is easier to pursue.

Attitudes towards naturalization vary significantly among EU nationals, with more well off and educated EU nationals and EU14 citizens displaying more resistance to applying to become British, on moral and political grounds. Others, instead, take a more pragmatic approach to acquiring a British passport.

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