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

Many EU nationals do not trust the UK government’s settled status scheme and are being pushed to apply for British citizenship to secure the position of their families, new research by the University of Birmingham’s Eurochildren project has found.

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 three reports are based on a two-year study led by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and affiliated to The UK in a Changing Europe.

Key findings of each report show:

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 ended Commonwealth immigration in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • 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 British government has decided to force UK resident EU citizens who want to remain lawfully in the UK to apply for immigration status.
  • Failure to apply for settled status will lead to a lawful EU resident becoming an unlawful resident as soon as the application deadline expires. This would impact negatively on dependent children whose status relies on their parents applying on their behalf.
  • The problem faced by the Windrush generation was being lawfully resident but without documentary proof. The problem faced by resident EU citizens who do not apply for immigration status could potentially be worse, as it would be linked to unlawful residence.

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

  • The share of births to at least one 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, the 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 and (dis)integration for EU families in Brexiting Britain

  • The share of applications for naturalisation 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 naturalisation since the EU referendum. Many more are still uncertain on their legal status.
  • The study found that attitudes towards naturalisation vary significantly among EU nationals, with more well off and educated EU nationals and EU14 citizens displaying more resistance to applying to become British on moral and political grounds. Others, take a more pragmatic approach to acquiring a British passport.

Professor Nando Sigona , Director of Eurochildren and Deputy Director of IRIS said:

“Thousands of children are born every year in the UK to EU parents, many in mixed-nationality families. To some of them, Brexit poses a profound and even existential challenge.”