Wednesday, May 25

The Brexit vote sparked an increase in Irish passports issued in Britain | Brexit

The number of Irish passports issued in Britain soared in the years after the Brexit referendum, according to the figures.

The data emerged when it was revealed that the celebrated British author John le Carré went to his grave as an Irish citizen.

Data released by Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney shows that just over 422,000 passport applications were made in Britain between 2016 and 2020.

In the years 2017 to 2020, 358,900 passports were issued, compared to 63,500 in 2016, the year of the UK exit survey from the EU.

The spike in passport applications was most marked in 2019 when the London embassy issued 120,800, double the number in 2016 alone.

The figures do not include figures for Northern Ireland, where all citizens are entitled to dual British and Irish citizenship under the Good Friday agreement.

Neale Richmond, a member said that Ireland was “proud of the global Irish community” and would welcome any new passports to the country.

The figures come after it emerged that Le Carré, one of the UK’s most celebrated spy thriller authors, was killed in an Irishman.

The creator of the quintessential English spy George Smiley was so opposed to Brexit that in order to remain European and reflect his heritage, he took Irish citizenship before his death last December at age 89, his son revealed this week.

“When he died, he was an Irish citizen,” says Nicholas Cornwell, who writes like Nick Harkaway, in a BBC Radio 4 documentary that will air Saturday night. “On his last birthday I gave him an Irish flag, so one of the last pictures I have of him is of him sitting draped in an Irish flag, grinning.”

Le Carré was entitled to Irish citizenship through his maternal grandmother, Olive Wolfe. With Irish citizenship rules that anyone who has or has had a grandparent from the country is entitled to a passport once it enters the foreign birth register.

Irish passport applications both on paper (top) and online (bottom)
Irish passport applications, both on paper (top) and online (bottom) Photograph: Irish Department of Foreign Affairs

Anecdotal evidence shows that, since Brexit, many people of Irish descent born in Britain have tried to exercise this right so that they can retain their rights to work, travel and retire anywhere in the EU.

In 2019, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said that more than 43,000 Britons applied for an Irish passport for the first time.

“The harsh impacts of Brexit and the attack on the rights of so many UK citizens has clearly motivated many to realize their Irish citizenship rights.

“We are proud of the global Irish community and we take pride in every passport issued, it goes without saying that if any of our diaspora wishes to return home they will be more than welcome,” said Richmond.

In 2020, just over 450,000 Irish passports were issued, according to government figures, 13% of them through the Irish embassy in Great Britain.

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