The largest group of foreign nationals applying for Italian Citizenship in the past year consists of British Citizens. Oliver & Partners has seen a sharp increase in enquiries and is currently assisting with a number of applications.
This development of course is in the aftermath of the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by British Prime Minister Theresa May on 2 October 2016 following the Referendum on 23 June 2016, in which 51.9% of the British population who voted chose to leave the EU.
According to the Guardian newspaper: ‘at least 17,000 Britons sought citizenship of another EU member state in the year after the Brexit vote’. Considering that the UK is on course to leave the EU by the end of March 2019, it is clear that Britons (particularly those living or working in the UK) are making desperate bids to secure their positions in the EU via any route possible. In these uncertain times, some Britons now want to be both British and citizens of the EU, which perhaps was never a concern prior to June 2016. The future status of 1.36 million Britons who are residing in other EU member states remains unknown, despite terms on citizens rights being agreed in December 2017, which will only be incorporated in a final “deal”, ie the Withdrawal Agreement, if all other issues relating to the UK’s departure are agreed in the next few months.
Another bid to “remain European” has been launched by a group of British citizens living in Holland, “Brexpats Hear Our Voice”, which recently presented a claim to the Amsterdam District Court arguing that EU citizenship is a right that cannot be taken from them when the UK leaves the EU. Their contention is that: “Once an EU citizen, always an EU citizen” or “civis europeus sum”, to quote the phrase that once implied all the rights and duties of a citizen of ancient Rome.
The Dutch court agreed earlier this month to make a referral to the European Court of Justice on the question of whether EU citizenship can in fact stand in its own right, and this case is destined to have a important ramifications for the future of British citizens in the EU after Brexit.
The UK may be split on the issue, but at least half the population are passionately in favour of retaining their EU citizenship and in favour of a second Referendum to reconsider the question of EU membership, which overwhelmingly affects the younger generation. UK citizens, who are also currently European citizens currently benefit from a range of interlocking and overlapping protections of rights from three key sources: the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated through the Human Rights Act 1998, the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Charter), as well as fundamental rights recognised as general principles of European Union law. EU law of course is designed to protect the ‘four freedoms’, i.e. free movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders, which were enshrined in the EU treaties with the aim of removing trade barriers and bringing together national rules at EU level. If the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to Parliament is passed, it will end the primacy of EU law in the UK which will cease to apply to its nationals living in the EU.
According to the Eurostate – Acquisition of Citizenship Statistics dated March 2017: ‘178,000 new citizenships within the EU were granted by Italy, which constitutes 21% of the EU total’.
Italian citizenship is currently regulated by law no. 91/1992 which provides that citizenship can be granted on any of the following bases: marriage, residency, ancestry (jure sanguinis) or asylum.