The Home Office has hiked fees sharply for UK nationals to renounce their British nationality, following a Brexit surge in people adopting the citizenship of other European countries.
Ministers were accused of “cashing in on Brexit” and giving Britons living on the continent a “last kick out the door” after it emerged fees were quietly raised to more than £1,000 for a family of three.
Many of the 1.3 million British people living abroad in other EU countries have sought foreign citizenship since the EU referendum in a bid to head-off the uncertainty caused by the decision to leave the bloc.
But with many EU countries, such as the Netherlands and Austria, restricting or entirely banning dual citizenship, some Britons are forced to pay twice: once to apply for costly foreign citizenship and again to renounce their British citizenship.
In April, the Home Office raised the renunciation fee per person by more than £50 from £321 to £372. Though expensive enough for single people, couples and families living abroad can easily find themselves spending many thousands of pounds on a citizenship application once the UK’s charges for leaving are taken into account. The department says the sharp increase reflects an increased cost of handling applications – at the same time as British people applying for foreign passports surged.
Figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat show the number of British people seeking the citizenship of other countries had increased by 165 per cent in the year of the referendum compared with the previous year. Individual figures from other countries show a sustained increase in similar applications throughout 2017.
Renouncing nationality is a last resort for people whose livelihood is in danger and an extremely painful decision to make
Michael Harris, British in EuropeThe increase was sharpest for some countries that ban dual citizenship: the number of British people adopting Dutch passports increased from 166 British citizens in 2015 to 636 in the year of the referendum, a 283 per cent increase. Though the Dutch government is changing the law to allow Dutch citizens living in Britain to adopt dual citizenship – to cushion them from the referendum result – no such exemption has been made for British citizens living in the Netherlands.
Campaigners said the move to hike the fees had added to the “painful” decision many British people had taken to renounce their nationality, which most only did because they feel they have no other option to secure their future.
“The increase will just add to the difficulties people face in countries like the Netherlands which do not allow dual nationality,” said Michael Harris, a Briton living abroad and a member of the British in Europe steering committee.
“Renouncing nationality is a last resort for people whose livelihood is in danger and an extremely painful decision to make.”
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said: “This is the Conservative Brexit government and the Home Office giving Brits in the EU the last kick out the door.
“After the Windrush scandal you’d have thought the Home Office would want to clean up its act, instead it’s cashing in on Brexit.
“It breaks my heart to see all these talented Brits give up their British identity so that they can continue to work and live in the EU. It’s a great loss to us all and the future of the UK.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “In April 2018, the fee to renounce British citizenship was reassessed to accurately reflect the cost of processing such applications and ensure value for money for the taxpayer.”