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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Being mean-spirited on citizenship could hit the NHS and cost UK plc

IPPR calls on new Home Secretary Amber Rudd to reform citizenship rules to stop a post-Brexit brain-drain harming the economy.

Home Office figures released this morning show a rise of 14 per cent rise in EU nationals applying for British citizenship in the past year, in the 12 months running up to the EU referendum poll. This shows the uncertainty the result of the referendum is causing.

It is likely this is being driven by people living in the UK unsure of their status after Brexit, as the prime minister has so far refused to give a cast-iron guarantee that they can stay. Given that one-in-ten NHS doctors is from the EU this is deeply worrying for our NHS - as well as the wider implications for the economy and UK plc.

IPPR calls on the government to reform our citizenship system by:

  • Granting British citizenship to all EU nationals working in the NHS to prevent a health emergency;
  • Granting indefinite leave to remain to all other EU citizens currently living in Britain;
  • Long-term EU residents and European children in our schools should be eligible for citizenship, in recognition of their particularly strong bond with our country.

IPPR research fellow, Chris Murray said:

“Some of our world-leading industries – such as financial services, technology, engineering and academia – owe their success to immigrants working alongside Brits, yet the uncertainty that Brexit has brought could impact negatively on these sectors of the economy.

“The 14 per cent rise in applications for citizenship this morning is a sign that people are feeling uncertain. People rightly think about the uncertainties before they sign contracts, put their children in school, make investments and take on extra employees.

“The need for clarity around the status of EU migrants is urgent and crucial for our economy. We are concerned about a larger number of highly-skilled EU nationals who may simply leave the country, causing a big brain drain that harms our economy.

“We need to keep attracting and retaining the best and brightest. We should fast-track access to citizenship for global talent. Our slow and bureaucratic system risks encouraging them to look elsewhere. And hard-working, well-integrated migrants should get a helping hand. The government should loan them the money to pay off the fee for citizenship over time. This is in the interests of our economy as much as in the interests of these migrants.”

The new IPPR report proposes a series of long term reforms to Britain’s citizenship system to adapt it to the demands of a modern society.

The world’s best and brightest are put off by our long, slow and bureaucratic system. Britain risks losing out in the competition for global talent because it takes so long for them to gain the security and advantages of a British passport.

On the other hand, many hard-working, well integrated migrants, contributing a lot to the economy and their communities, are locked out of becoming British citizens because the application fee is so prohibitively high – and it has spiralled in recent years.

The report recommends that:

  • Highly-skilled migrants with globally competative skills should be offered a fast-track to citizenship in exchange for paying a higher fee;
  • For other migrants, the fee for citizenship should be frozen;
  • And migrants on low wages should be offered be able to acquire citizenship with the help of an interest-free government loan similar to student loans.

The cost of applying for citizenship in the UK is now among the most expensive in the world:

  • The cost is £1,236 – a 25 per cent increase on 2015. And up from £200 less than ten years ago.
  • This charge is almost ten times what it actually costs the Home Office to process a naturalisation application (£144)


Kieren Walters, [email protected], 07921 403 651
Lester Holloway, [email protected], 07585 772 633

Notes to Editors:

1. The report called ‘Becoming one of us’ is available on this link:

2. IPPR previously published ‘Trajectory and Transience’ last November which noted that the tightening of the citizenship process has had a marked impact on naturalisation rates, which dropped by 40 per cent in 2014 from a year earlier. See:

3. Our 2014 report ‘A fair deal on migration for the UK’ also looked at citizenship. See: