Britain is handing out passports to more foreign nationals than any other EU country. In one year, the number of citizenship applications rubber-stamped by the last government was almost a quarter of those issued across all 27 EU member states. From 2002 to 2008, the latest period for which full figures are available, the total number of approvals by Home Office officials was 1,008,500.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistics authority, said this figure outstripped even Germany and France, which have larger populations. Once granted citizenship, people have full access to housing, benefits and the jobs market.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘These statistics show why we must tighten our immigration system and look to be more selective about who we give British citizenship to.
While it is important that we attract the brightest and the best to ensure strong economic growth, uncontrolled permanent migration places unacceptable pressure on public services.
In addition to issuing the highest cumulative number of passports, Britain topped the league table in three individual years. In 2007, the 164,500 passport approvals was the equivalent on 23 per cent of the EU total. Over the entire seven-year period, they accounted for 20 per cent of those given out.
Labour repeatedly promised to make the citizenship rules tougher, but by the time it left government, the numbers were rising sharply. The Eurostat report stops at 2008. But, in the following year, Home Office figures show the government granted 203,790 passports.
Britain has the third largest number of foreign citizens living here – behind only Germany and Spain. The total of 4,020,800 consists of 1,614,800 people from inside the EU who – because of free movement directives – do not require a visa to live in the UK.
During the election campaign, Labour claimed there were equal numbers of workers entering and leaving the UK.
In reality, Eurostat says there were just 287,600 UK nationals filling jobs elsewhere in the European Union by autumn 2008. Yet there were 1,020,000 citizens from other Euro countries taking posts in the economy here. Earlier this week, Mr Green said that – as part of his plan to halve net migration – he wanted to make it harder for non-EU nationals to settle permanently in the UK.