European Union nationals from France, Germany, Poland and other member states who live in the U.K. have started clamoring for dual nationality ahead of a 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom exiting the European Union, according to a poll published Monday by the Guardian. The so-called Brexit was introduced by British Prime Minister David Cameron during the May election, causing tense debate among citizens and residents over whether the U.K. would be better off outside of the EU.
The Guardian surveyed 1,200 EU nationals living in the U.K., and the vast majority said they were beginning the naturalization process or were in the middle of being naturalized to obtain dual nationality in the U.K. Exact figures were not given.
“Everyone talks about Brexit in big-picture economic or political terms; no one considers what it might mean personally, to so many people,” said Stephanie Zihms, a German national who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and works as a postdoctoral academic.
— The Guardian (@guardian) August 17, 2015
The U.K. has long been seen by other EU members as a somewhat reticent member state, one that chose to keep its own currency and to stay out of the Schengen accord, an agreement signed by 26 EU nations that allows tourists, residents and visa holders to move freely between countries with fewer passport controls. During his campaign for re-election in May, Cameron questioned whether the EU was beneficial to Britons, citing the country's strong economy.
EU citizens living in the U.K. have said they fear what a Brexit could mean for them, including whether they could be deported, forced to apply for visas to leave the country or see other forms of restrictions on movement. Naturalization of foreign people living in the U.K. has been on the rise for five years, with the number of people choosing to be nationalized jumping from 10,000 in 2009 to just over 18,000 in 2013.