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READERS' VIEWS - BECOMING FRENCH

BREXIT

‘If Brexit happens I’m becoming French just to stay in EU’

Have fears of a Brexit pushed you to consider becoming French? Here's what our readers have admitted.

'If Brexit happens I'm becoming French just to stay in EU'
Photo: AFP

Growing fears among many expats that a Brexit could happen is forcing many of them to think about how life in France would be if the UK cut its ties with “the continent”.

Most seem to believe life will continue pretty much as normal  – Brits won't be camped out at Calais waiting to catch a boat home – albeit things may get more complicated, but some of the more worried British immigrants in France want more guarantees than that.

One of the options, at least for those who have lived in France for five years or more, is to take French citizenship. 

And some are considering it.

Nick Wood said: “Already considered at the start of this Brexit farce. Will go ahead for sure if Brexit happens as it will be the only way to remain in the EU. Also don't want to have to get a visa to go in and out of my country of residence.

” My kids were all born in France and have lived here all their lives. I cannot risk them getting booted out of the ony home they know just because they are British citizens and Britain is no longer part of the EU.

Graham Franklin said: “I was considering it. Reading your post has helped me decide to go for it. I'm married to a French woman and we both work here in France. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.”

There are basically two main paths to French citizenship for those from the UK, and here's the step-by-step guide to both.
 
1. Naturalisation
 
If you're not married to a French person, this is the pathway that's most likely applicable to you. You need to have lived in France for five continuous years to be eligible, and you have to be able to prove that you have integrated into the French culture (and can speak French, bien sûr). 
 
If you're a tertiary student, it's a bit more relaxed, and you can be eligible for citizenship after two years if you've completed a master's degree or you can prove that your talents are an asset to France.
 
Sounds easy enough, but it can be a time-consuming affair – especially getting documents translated.
 
(Photo: AFP)
 
2. Marriage
 
Have you been married to a French person for at least four years? Well, as long as you live together, then you're eligible for French citizenship too (if you don't live together, however, then you need to have been married for five years).
 
Of course, you need to still be married to the spouse upon application, they need to still have a French citizenship, and you need to show that you have a good knowledge of French. 
 
Susan Walton said: “I submitted my naturalisation request a year ago, and have a first interview with the prefecture scheduled. 

“The process has been somewhat simplified since I first considered it. But it took me about three days to work out what was required and dig out and photocopy the documentation.

“If you are over 60 the language requirements are reduced. I understand there is a new, even simpler, process in the pipeline for over-60's who are parents or grandparents of French citizens.”

But for some the thought of becoming French is just too much, whether it meant an easier life or not. And it seems patriotic pride is the reason.

Andrea Jacobs said: “After 20 years of living in France. Husband French and two kids born in France there is still nothing in the world that could persuade me to take French nationality.”

Gail Chudley said:  “I live in France but I am still proud to be English. No, I wouldn't become a French citizen.”

Another reader wrote: “What a bunch of traitors”.

And it's not just the Brits in France who are considering taking a new nationality to enable them to have a worry-free post Brexit.

Respondents to a survey by the community website France in London reflected similar worries of French expats in the UK.

While some talked of gaining British citizenship, others said they intended to leave the UK if the UK left Europe.

A IN vote in the June 23rd referendum will clearly calm a lot of fears, whether they are real or not and it will also save a lot of people some arduous paperwork.

 

 

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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