Polish & Italian applications for UK passports spiked before Brexit vote

© Cathal McNaughton
UK passport applications from European Union citizens jumped 14 percent in the run-up to the EU referendum in June, government figures show.

Statistics from the Home Office indicate applications for British passports from EU nationals rose to 15,501 before polling day, with a significant increase in applications from Italian and Polish citizens.

Despite this rise, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that annual net migration to the UK actually fell in the lead-up to the referendum.

The disclosures come as MPs consider plans to make low-skilled EU migrants apply for permits to work in the UK after Brexit.

Concern over the status of EU citizens residing in the UK after the referendum meant that applications for British passports rose by 26 percent among Italians and 9 percent among Polish nationals.

Net migration figures fell however, from 336,000 to 327,000 in the 12 months to March 2016.

The number of overseas students coming to the UK has dropped by 28,000 to 164,000 – the lowest level since 2007.

Meanwhile, the ONS figures revealed that non-EU net migration at 190,000 remains larger than net migration from within the EU, which was 180,000.

Tory Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said reducing the number of migrants entering the UK would be top of the agenda for Brexit negotiators.

We are also committed to reducing non-EU migration across all visa routes in order to bring net migration down to sustainable levels as soon as possible,” he said.

Sir David Metcalf, head of the Migration Advisory Committee, said post-Brexit Britain could require EU migrants to apply for work permits if they want to come to the UK.

I think it [work permits] is a pretty straightforward way and you already have a model that works.

Metcalf suggested the new system could be modelled on a previous work permit scheme for seasonal agricultural workers.

The agricultural scheme was terrifically well administered, it was one guy at the Home Office working with operators and farmers.

It was time limited and capped. We could think of similar sectors where you have got a lot of unskilled European labour. That's very much tied up with what the prime minister is interested in.”