27, June 2016
An increasing number of Britons are rushing to apply for Irish passports to be able to remain EU citizens after Britain voted to leave the bloc on Thursday, officials say. “Following the UK referendum, there has been a spike in interest in Irish passports in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and elsewhere, although there has been some exaggeration of demand,” Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said in a statement on Monday.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the UK Post Office, tasked with handling passport applications, said that there has been a surge in the number of Irish passport seekers from Britain. “We have seen an unusually high number of people in Northern Ireland seeking Irish passport applications, though we do not have exact numbers or a breakdown by branch,” the spokeswoman said.
Those Britons with an Irish parent or grandparent and those, who were born in the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland, are entitled to an Irish passport. According to statistics, there are approximately six million people of Irish ancestry living in Britain. Being an EU citizen offers Britons a number of advantages. They can enjoy free movement rights, seek employment in other EU states without having a work permit, use public healthcare facilities across the bloc and benefit from welfare and other rights.
Thursday’s vote result has sent shock waves through the political and economic sectors both in the UK and in Europe. It has even led people to run a petition to call for a second referendum as a number of those, who voted to leave the bloc, have changed their minds. In Northern Ireland, post offices have run out of application forms and the Irish embassy in London has filed more than 4,000 passport inquiries in comparison to the 200 it usually receives on a normal day, according to a diplomatic source.
According to Flanagan, “The increased interest clearly points to a sense of concern among some UK passport holders that the rights they enjoy as EU citizens are about to abruptly end.” He warned that the sudden and unnecessary increase in applications would significantly increase pressure on turnaround times at passport offices. The spike even prompted a member of Northern Ireland’s largest Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein, to ask the government in Dublin to open a passport office in Belfast to meet the soaring demands.
Following the release of the vote result, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation. “Britain is leaving the European Union but we must not turn our back on Europe or the rest of the world,” Cameron said on Monday during the first parliament session since the Brexit vote.