Lack of trust in UK government's 'settled status' scheme pushes EU citizens to apply for naturalisation

Research conducted from the Eurochildren study, led by IRiS Deputy Director, Dr Nando Sigona, released three new reports today covering the legal, statistical and soiciological aspects of the impact of Brexit on EU families.

Many EU nationals have lost trust the UK government and its ‘settled status’ scheme and feel they are being pushed to apply for British citizenship as the only viable way to secure the position of their families in the long run.

Nando Sigona, Director of the Eurochildren study and Deputy Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham said:

'Thousands of children are born every year in the UK to EU parents, many in mixed-nationality families (including British-born parents), to them Brexit and the growing gulf between the EU and Britain poses a profound and even existential challenge. There is no ‘going home’ option for them'. 

Eurochildren, which is researching the lives of EU citizens in the UK, has released three new reports covering the legal, statistical and sociological aspects of the impact of Brexit on EU families.  The reports are being launched today at a prestigious event at the Houses of Parliament featuring Preet Gill MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston.  Below a brief summary of the key findings of each report. 

Windrush scandal and Brexit: legal parallels and divergences

Parallels and differences between ending Commonwealth and EU citizen free movement rights.

The status of EU citizens in the UK presents a similar policy dilemma for the British government today as it did when it the ended Commonwealth immigration in the 1960s and 1970s a report finds. 

When the UK government continued the lawful residence of Commonwealth residents by primary legislation, there was no need for existing residents to apply for a new immigration status. Today, the UK government has decided to force currently resident EU citizens who want to remain lawfully in the UK to apply for immigration status. 

Immigration barrister Colin Yeo, lead author of the legal brief, said:

'Declaring EU citizens are automatically lawfully resident would avoid a minority becoming unlawfully resident after Brexit. Without major reforms to the hostile environment laws it might end up exposing them instead to a Windrush type situation of being lawfully resident but unable to prove it'. 

UK-born children to EU parents: a growing and diverse population

UK-born children of EU nationals in the UK: historical, national and local perspectives

The share of births to EU parent has been increasing since the mid-2000s. In 2016 it was 12% of all births in England and Wales, 13% in Northern Ireland, and 10% in Scotland a new study finds. The study also shows a change in the main countries of birth of EU parents, where the share of births to mothers and fathers from 2004 Accession countries has increased. Many of these births come from instances where both parents were born in the same EU country. ‘Mixed’ births, where parents are born in different countries, have increased over time. This is not only for births with one parent born in the UK and one born in a EU27 country, but also for births where both parents are born in different EU countries. 

Naturalisation & (dis)integration

Naturalisation and (dis)integration for EU families in Brexiting Britain

The share of applications for naturalization by EU27 residents in the UK has increased from 5% in 2007 to 26% in 2017. More than 80,000 EU residents have applied for naturalization since the EU referendum. While a significant increase, many more are still uncertain on their legal status and ponder their options. The study found that attitudes towards naturalization vary significantly among EU nationals, with more well off and educated EU nationals and EU14 citizens displaying more resistance to apply to become British on moral and political grounds. Others, instead, take a more pragmatic approach to acquiring a British passport. 

Dr Nando Sigona, lead author of the third report and Director of the Eurochildren study, said:

'The outcome of the EU referendum is tearing some EU families apart, uprooting children and parents, splitting them across borders and forcing families to reconsider their future in the UK. Becoming British becomes a defensive mechanism for those who can afford the application fee, a way to ‘take back control’ over their lives after years of uncertainty on their legal status'. 

Nicolas Hatton, founder of The 3 Million, a partner of the Eurochildren project, said:

'Brexit has thrown many EU families in disarray, as they ponder their future in a country which has become ambiguous about Europe and immigration. For example, so many EU parents do not realise that their Britain born children won’t automatically become British, causing all sorts of worries and cost when they try to get them a British passport. This research is important, as it looks at the factors and motivations driving the naturalisation of EU citizens, and should be looked at carefully by British politicians, as they are considering how Britain will manage the hundreds of thousands of EU families living in the UK after Brexit'.