European citizenship after Brexit impacts many EU nationals living and working in the UK. What has been considered as one of the major accomplishments of the EU integration - citizenship of the Union - is now jeopardised with the probability of restrictions related to rights and free movement of people.

There is no clarity on the future status and security of British nationals and the 3 million citizens of other EU countries who live, study and work in the UK. People who came to Britain on legitimate basis, who have built their lives in the UK and contributed to British prosperity and culture have no way of knowing if they will continue to reside in the UK and the terms and conditions following Brexit.

British nationals are less likely to retain the right to free movement in the EU after Brexit, and vice versa. These developments mean that some people who have moved across national borders are now faced with uncertainty. The en masse loss of citizenship is connected to a reduction or stripping of rights affecting not solely the former Union citizens but also second country nationals in the UK.

Legal uncertainty of European citizenship after Brexit

The European citizenship right to free movement is incorporated into the UK law by the European Communities Act 1972 and is transposed by domestic secondary legislation. However, following Brexit, legal uncertainty may impact UK citizens living in the EU which would be considered third country nationals. This opens many questions such as which rights can be kept, restricted or stripped off completely and also who gets to withdraw the status of citizenship amongst others. Some EU nationals may be asked, for instance, to renounce their original citizenship, since their country of origin does not allow dual citizenship.

UK nationals trying to lessen the existing risks related to European citizenship after Brexit are increasingly acquiring a second passport in an EU state and seeking dual nationality. Reports show that more and more UK nationals are applying for second citizenship in the EU. The good news is that the UK does not impose any restrictions on dual nationality and will not normally affect their tax status, which in most countries is determined by residency and not nationality.


Options for European citizenship after Brexit

Naturalisation is the most common way through which a person could acquire European citizenship after Brexit. This could be done by moving abroad and living, studying, working, and being integrated in an EU country in most of the cases for minimum period of 5 years.

In relation to this, the Vienna convention states that if a person is to move to another nation before any official legislation relating to UK citizens' rights were to change, then one could be saved from being asked to leave at a later stage.

Ireland, for instance, has reported the biggest number of Britons applying for Irish nationality. This is due to the possibility of retaining EU citizenship through Ireland. France and Germany have also reported big flows in the number of Britons seeking citizenship, albeit on a smaller scale.

European citizenship after Brexit can also be obtained through the various citizenship by investment programmes available. Countries such as Malta, Cyprus and Austria have successful citizenship by investment programmes which enable high net worth individuals to invest in these countries and in exchange acquire the desirable fast-tracked route to European citizenship.

For example, the Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme was the first EU approved citizenship Programme. It offers a second citizenship option to families wishing to relocate their personal or business affairs to an EU country.

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