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Fall in number of British passports issued in Northern Ireland

DUP MP Sammy Wilson
DUP MP Sammy Wilson

The number of British passports issued in Northern Ireland has been declining over the past four years and dropped significantly in the year after Brexit, new figures show.

129,550 British passports were issued by the UK passport office for people living in Northern Ireland in 2015, according to figures that started being recorded that year.

In 2016, the number dropped to 128,759.

In 2017, the number fell to 121,858. The number fell again in 2018 to 119,298.

The figures were obtained by the Irish Times in response to a Freedom of Information request.

In the same period, there's been a significant rise in the issuance of Irish passports to citizens living in Northern Ireland.

In 2015, some 53,715 Irish passports were issued through Northern Ireland Passport Express (NIPX).

That figure rose to 67,582 in 2016 and to 82,274 in 2017.

It increased again in 2018 to 84,855.

Those figures do not include Irish citizens in the North who apply for their passports from Dublin.

The DUP's Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson said the figures don't "particularly" concern him.

"There could be a lot of reasons behind it, but nothing that would give any cause for alarm," he said.

"The Irish passport comes through a heck of a deal faster than a British passport, so you may well find that a lot of people, like myself, leave things to the last minute and their passport is nearly expired.

"And if somebody came in and asked me for advice, saying they’re going on their holidays in the middle of September, should they apply for a British or Irish passport, I’ll tell them, if you want to go on your holidays, you best apply for an Irish passport rather than a British passport."

He also said concerns over disruptions post-Brexit, cost and issues to do with travel insurance could be behind the figures.

"There are lots of non-political reasons why people would take an Irish passport," he said.

"People who are my voters come to me, and they are totally unembarrassed about getting an Irish passport – they just say would you sign this [Irish passport application] for me? End of story.

"I just signed two this week, I know them, they are from the unionist community. I have no doubt people are applying for Irish passports now who wouldn’t have had in the past.

"I don’t think this is a voter going in the nationalist direction.”

Mr Wilson said he doesn't have an Irish passport and wouldn't be applying for one.

"I don’t believe when we leave the EU that there is going to be any disruption," he said.

"If you have to stand in a queue for an extra five minutes when you’re going through the airport at Malaga or whatever, big deal. It’s not an important issue as far as I’m concerned."

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