ICH BIN EIN BERLINER

Britons have become obsessed with becoming German

The number of Brits taking German citizenship soared last year, according to new statistics. “The link to Brexit seems clear,” according to German officials.

How clear? This clear:

Nearly 2,900 British citizens were naturalized in Germany in 2016, a hefty 361% rise on the year before. And since it takes several months to complete the application process, Brits who applied after the Brexit referendum last June may not get their passports until this year, suggesting another big jump in naturalizations in 2017.

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, its citizens are rushing to retain ties to the bloc before the divorce is complete. The sudden surge stems from a sobering reality for Brits who live elsewhere in Europe, or would like to someday: EU citizens can live and work anywhere within the union, and it isn’t clear whether Brits will maintain this status in the future.

Formal Brexit negotiations are due to start next week, with a deadline for deals on the UK’s future relationship of early 2019, when the country is set to leave the bloc, barring any extensions.

Other European countries have also seen a rise in applications from British citizens, including France and Italy. Applications for Irish passports from mainland Britain are up 60% so far this year, following a 40% rise last year, to around 65,000 submissions.

There is a particular urgency in Germany’s case, which is down to the country’s strict rules on dual citizenship. EU and Swiss nationals are allowed to become German citizens and keep their other passports, but everybody else has to satisfy certain criteria—not applicable to many Brits—or else be forced to renounce their previous citizenship in favor of becoming German. Brits who apply for German citizenship while the UK is still in the EU can keep both of their passports, but those who wait until after Brexit may not be able to do the same.

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