With Brexit passed, British naturalizations in the EU are on the decline

With the end of the Brexit negotiations in the form of a final agreement on Northern Ireland, a troubled chapter for the United Kingdom opened in 2016 is closing. Seven years of tense negotiations with the European Union (EU) and internal political crises that have burdened the British economy and plunged Her Majesty’s subjects into the unknown in terms of travel, customs rules and the legal regime.

For the 1.2 million Britons who were already residing in EU countries in 2016, the period was marked by great uncertainty. For these reasons, and many others no doubt, more than 117,000 nationals from across the Channel decided to become naturalized in a country of the EU or the Schengen area (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland) between 2010 and 2021, according to Eurostat data. These figures rose sharply between 2016 and 2019, at the height of tensions between London and Brussels, with more than 70,000 naturalisations. While the trend has slowed in recent years, the 12,906 naturalizations recorded in 2021 remain well above the pre-Brexit period.

Germany has naturalized a third of Britons in mainland Europe

Berlin has naturalized the most Britons over the past decade: precisely 38,533 between 2010 and 2021, peaking at 13,675 in 2019. France comes second, with 14,723 naturalizations – despite only 163 neo- French of British origin in 2021 –, followed by Sweden (13,482 naturalisations) and the Netherlands (8,805).

If these figures are related to the size of the population, it is Cyprus which has naturalized the most Britons between 2010 and 2021 (6,141, or 7 per 1,000 Chrypriots), followed by Luxembourg (1,861, or 3 .15‰), Malta (1,466, or 3‰) and Sweden (13,482, or 1.3‰). France only comes thirteenth, with 14,723 Britons who have become French (ie 0.2‰).

These disparities are also linked to the conditions of naturalization. Thus, Spain requires ten years of residence on its territory, a Spanish language and culture test before any application for naturalization. Germany is more flexible, requiring only eight years of residency and a language test.


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