A new study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the WZB - Berlin Social Science Centre has revealed that the number of Brits receiving German citizenship has risen by over 1000% since the Brexit referendum in 2016: While 622 British citizens received German citizenship in 2015, numbers jumped dramatically to 7.493 “naturalisations” in 2017 and predictions for 2019 are higher than all previous years.
Figures released by the OECD for the whole continent show a similar trend of Brits acquiring another EU citizenship with a rise of 600% in ‘naturalisations’. With Brexit, deal or no–deal, all British citizens living in the UK or elsewhere stand to lose their European citizenship rights such as freedom of movement or recognition of qualifications. Obtaining a nationality of an EU member state is a way for British citizens to guarantee maintaining EU citizenship rights that many people’s professional and personal livelihoods over the years have come to depend on. Rachel from Loughborough who gained dual citizenship in 2018 and now lives in Berlin says: “Getting German citizenship has given me a whole new confidence and security that I had lost.” The study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB) interviewed British citizens who have arrived in Germany over the last decade with a wide sample in social background, age and profession. The huge spike in post-2015 naturalisations (both UK in EU and EU in UK) is marked by the survey data as almost entirely motivated by the Brexit referendum.
According to migration researcher and co-author of the study Dr. Daniel Auer: “These dramatic jumps tell us we’re onto a significant social phenomenon here whose implications are yet to be understood.” If there is to be a no–deal Brexit at the end of this month, British citizens newly applying for German citizenship would be required to renounce British nationality on the grounds that German law stipulates that generally only EU citizens can acquire dual nationality. Therefore, those Brits that want to maintain their European citizenship rights will have to give up their British citizenship, a heart-breaking and impossible prospect for many. Alex, a start-up business owner who moved with his wife and two children from the UK to Germany in 2013 said: “We are being hung out to dry by the politicians from both sides. With my German language level, I’d have no chance of securing German citizenship and even if I could in the future, I wouldn’t want to give up my British passport. I just have to trust the German Government to keep their word and not kick us out.”
While the legal consequences of Brexit remain so uncertain, people like Alex and Rachel – along with more than 5 million other EU or UK migrants on both sides of the channel – are taking often large risks to do whatever they can to mitigate the pending impact of Brexit on their lives.