There’s been a huge increase in the number of UK citizens applying for passports from other EU countries since Brexit.
The number successfully applying to become citizens of Germany is up fourfold and the number seeking Irish passports is up by 70%.
The rush is being driven by people desperate to keep their rights to travel, live, work and access services across the EU after Britain leaves next March.
But it could soon be possible to keep all of those benefits without acquiring a different nationality thanks to a British initiative for permanent EU citizenship.
A group based in Nottingham have successfully kicked-off a ‘European Citizens’ Initiative’ – that’s the official term for the EU’s formal petition mechanism.
Under a policy introduced in 2011, the EU’s executive – the European Commission – is obliged to consider an official petition that is supported by at least a million people across the EU.
Only four of these citizens’ initiatives have ever achieved the required level of support.
The British initiative for permanent EU citizenship has made a good start, gaining the support of 38,000 people within 24 hours of its formal launch.
They’ve also received big political backing from Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who is now the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator.
EU citizenship does not replace our national citizenship, it is additional to it. If you believe in Churchill's vision of a “common citizenship” uniting Europe, please sign & #RT. Let's make this the most popular citizen's initiative ever! #IamEuropean https://t.co/cclLv6Jxjk
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) August 23, 2018
If signatures continue at this rate then it could clear the 1 million hurdle within a month.
But there’s one problem – too much of the support so far is coming from the UK. It accounts for almost 60% so far.
To be successful, the petition will also need to attract a minimum number of signatures from six more member states.
For example, the minimum number of signatures required in Germany is 72,000. So far, the petition has the support of just over 1,200.
In Spain, where there is a large British expat community, it has achieved 3% of the signatures required.
The biggest support overseas so far is from Belgium, where 4% of the more manageable 15,750 target has been reached.
The group behind the initiative say it’s not only for UK citizens, but they have some way to go in getting the attention of citizens of other EU countries and convincing them to support this idea.
Even if they succeed in gaining the support they need, there’s no guarantee permanent EU citizenship will become a reality.
The European Commission is only obliged to reply within three months to say whether or not it will fulfil the request.
So, for now, it’s likely that those passport applications numbers will keep increasing.