The issues examined during our short inquiry comprised: the costs and process required for Irish citizens to naturalise as British; and the rights relating to identity and citizenship under Article 1(vi) of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. It is clear from the evidence we received on both issues that a more considered and bespoke understanding of the unique relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is needed in the Home Office. The current approach towards policymaking ignores fundamentally the emotional and political history, close personal ties, close political and bilateral relationships and the continued movement of people between the two countries.
In terms of UK naturalisation policy, it appears unfair to require an Irish citizen, who has lived and made their home in the UK for a considerable period, to pay a fee of £1,330 to become a British citizen. It should be removed for Irish citizens.
The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement sets out the birthright of the people of Northern Ireland to be able to identify as Irish or British or both, as they choose. It confirms the right to hold both British and Irish citizenship. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, most people of Northern Ireland are automatically British citizens by birth. A recent court case brought to greater public attention debate over the meaning of and obligations under this part of the Agreement and its interaction with UK nationality law. The Committee understands the Government’s position that identity does not equate to automatic citizenship. However, Ministers should clarify what the right under the Agreement to identify “and be accepted as” Irish or British or both actually means in practice. A key issue is the varied definitions, emphasis and interpretations placed on the terms “identity” and “accepted as”.
We also recommend that the Government amend its citizenship renunciation process for the people of Northern Ireland. On the premise of fairness, sensitivity, and recognising that some people may wish to align their choice of an Irish-only identity with their citizenship, this process should be as straightforward as possible.