The number of British applicants for Irish passports has risen by nearly 20,000 following Brexit, says Ireland’s foreign minister.

The Guardian reports that 51,079 people from Great Britain and Northern Ireland applied for passports in the first quarter of 2017, compared with 30,303 during the same period last year. About 250,000 passport applications were received from across the world in the same quarter.

Charlie Flanagan said: “It’s reasonable to suggest that Brexit is a factor in what are record numbers of applications.”

“I think it’s also reasonable to assume that there are large numbers of people of Irish descent who now feel that they would like to remain as EU citizens in what is a changing time in relations between Ireland and the UK.”

In the three months following the Brexit referendum last June, Irish passport applications from the UK rose 83 percent.

British citizens have said that they were applying for Irish citizenship to “eliminate any hassle in employment” and to ensure that can travel freely in the EU after Brexit.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland residents are entitled to Irish and EU citizenship.

Of the 733,060 passports that Flanagan’s department issued in 2016, about 65,000 were given to Britons, a 42 percent rise on 2015.

To handle the increased number of applicants, the department has had to hire extra staff. It has also launched an online passport renewal service.

Flanagan said: “I am very concerned about the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on our economy here in Ireland, and I am really anxious to make sure the Good Friday Agreement is not disturbed.

“I am saddened that the UK is leaving the EU formally, but I of course very much accept the desire and will of the majority in the UK.”

A spokesman for Flanagan’s department said: “The increase in application numbers is attributable to a variety of causes, including an expanding population and a significant increase in outbound travel in recent years.

“The decision by the UK to leave the EU may have also had some impact, although the department does not ask people why they are applying for a passport, only whether or not they are eligible.”

Irish passport.iStock