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    EU and Union flags fly above Parliament Square during a Unite for Europe march, in central London, Britain

    Professor: Britons Seek EU Citizenship to Gain a Lot of Advantages

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    The number of British citizens applying for an Irish passport has surged since the Brexit vote. Sputnik spoke about it to Dagmar Schiek, Professor from the School of Law at Queen's University Belfast, and Colin Harvey, Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast.

    Sputnik: What are the reasons why British people seek an EU citizenship?

    Prof. Schiek: The EU citizenship offers a lot of advantages: you can move to all the countries of the European Union to work, for leisure, to meet friends. It also has economic advantages for small businesses, as a person that has an EU citizenship can establish a business in any of the other EU countries. EU citizens also can vote for the European Parliament; that is ultimately a decision of their member state of which they become a citizen, how they organise the votes for the European Parliament.

    Many member states give their expatriates, for example, EU citizens who live not in the EU but in another state such as the UK after Brexit, voting rights for the EU Parliament, but not all of them do. Perhaps it's also important that children of EU citizens can have the same education rights in all the EU countries, if their parents move to that other EU country for work.

    Sputnik: Why is the Irish citizenship one of the easier nationalities to acquire?

    Prof. Schiek: I would say that there are many British citizens who are eligible for Irish citizenship, because, to be eligible for Irish citizenship, you need to have Irish parents or Irish grandparents. And because Ireland and Britain are so close geographically and culturally, there are many British citizens who are in that position. Also, if somebody acquires Irish citizenship and has another citizenship already, Ireland doesn't require them to give it up.

    If an Irish citizen moves abroad and then decides to take up the citizenship of the other country, then in many cases they will have to give up Irish citizenship. So you, Irish, you move to Canada, you become Canadian, then often you need to give up your Irish citizenship in the process. But this is not so important for the people who want to become Irish now.

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    Sputnik: Could you explain why people from Northern Ireland are automatically entitled to an Irish passport?

    Prof. Harvey: Specifically in Northern Ireland there's the Good Friday agreement, that contains the birth right entitlement, if you like, for people born in Northern Ireland before 1st January, 2005 and also born after 2005 to British or Irish parents. So that means that the vast majority of people who are now living in Northern Ireland are also entitled to Irish citizenship. As part of Brexit, more and more people are clearly now exercising that option to claim their entitlement to Irish citizenship, because obviously there's really significant anxiety about what the consequences of Brexit will be fore people's rights.

    Sputnik: On Tuesday, the BBC wrongly reported that there had been an increase of rejections of British applicants. Nonetheless, in what case could an application be rejected?

    Prof. Harvey: It's interesting that the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland corrected that story, you know. I think there seems to be some misunderstanding in terms of the original story, and the Department of Foreign Affairs have corrected that. But obviously, the key thing is you're only entitled to an Irish passport if you're Irish. So you can think of all the different ways in which people must be able to demonstrate that. So, if you can't demonstrate that you're an Irish citizen, then you can't access an Irish passport. I think it's important to underline that, as the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland have made clear, there were problems with that original story.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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