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AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Stay in the bloc.
ALTERNATIVE "REMAIN"

2018 was another record-breaking year for Brits seeking EU passports

By Youyou Zhou

In 2018, the frenzied rush by British citizens to obtain EU passports continued, in many cases breaking records set in 2017. Numbers have been rising steadily across most of the EU since the UK’s June 2016 decision to leave the bloc.

For now, Brits enjoy the right to work and reside freely across the EU, but in the case of a no-deal Brexit—which looks increasingly likely—they’ll lose that. With the March 29 deadline for the UK to leave the bloc looming, many Brits are now scrambling to find ways to remain in the bloc. For many, that means getting a second passport.

Last year, Ireland, an EU member state, received 183,339 citizenship applications from the UK, a 12.5% jump from a year ago, according to the latest official numbers. It was the second consecutive year of record-breaking increase: The number of applicants in 2017 was 24% higher than that in 2016.

This is happening across Europe. For example, about 20,000 UK nationals live in Sweden without a Swedish passport. Close to 2,000, in another record, submitted citizenship applications last year, according to the latest figures, despite a 27-month wait.

France saw the same trend. Fewer than 400 Brits applied for French citizenship in 2015. The number soared to 1,363 a year after, and then more than doubled in 2017. (The full-year numbers for 2018 are not yet available.) Both UK nationals living in France and ones in the UK have applied, according to reports from France 24. They can keep both their French and British citizenship, as France allows dual nationality.

Quartz has previously reported the trend in Germany, and figures from the Netherlands are largely the same.

Brits who meet the citizenship criteria in member states—especially if they now reside in one—have every reason to get an EU passport before March 29. What their rights will be post-Brexit is still up in the air. The European Commission offered guidance that British expats should remain legal residents of where they live for at least 90 days after Brexit, but it’s up to individual states to decide on the duration and what rights Brits will be granted.

Some countries have taken action ahead of the final Brexit deadline. Brits in Germany are now required to fill out registration forms to get residency permits after Brexit. The Italian government is planning a three-stage contingency plan to ensure Brits continue to enjoy their current rights post-Brexit. The Netherlands has promised “a decent solution” but offered few details, leaving the fate of Brits there in question.