• France's news in English
Opinion - Brexit aftermath
British expats 'should be given French nationality'
Photo: AFP

British expats 'should be given French nationality'

Ben McPartland · 4 Jul 2016, 12:18

Published: 04 Jul 2016 12:18 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Law professor Patrick Weil knows a thing or two about citizenship, nationality and migration. In fact he is the country's leading voice on the subject and has advised those in power on matters related to citizenship.

It was Weil who helped put French president François Hollande off the idea of stripping convicted terrorists of their French nationality, because, he argued, it simply wouldn’t work.

Now Weil, the author of the book “How to be French” has turned his attention to Brexit and how France could help out all those tens of thousands of British nationals in France who have been left feeling a little uneasy about their futures since the referendum.

Weil believes the French government should roll out the red carpet for them and offer them an easy route to citizenship.

“Britons in France have been left living in uncertainty in terms of their futures and their status,” Weil told The Local. “Many feel very insecure. They don’t know if they will be EU citizens and what consequences that will have.

“The French parliament should make a gesture to all those Britons who want to keep their EU citizenship by allowing them to become French.

“France has always accepted dual citizenship so British nationals would not have to renounce their British passports.  

“I have studied these issues in depth and I see no legal issues. France should help those who want to secure their future by saying if you want to become French, you can. It doesn’t have to be obligatory.

Currently British nationals who want to take French citizenship through the naturalisation route have to have lived in the country for five years, which of course many have, but not all.

They also have to prove they are sufficiently integrated with one of those requirement being a language test. For those who want to gain citizenship by marrying a French partner, they need to have been wedded for at least four years.

Weil believes the rules should be relaxed following the referendum.

“It could be done for those who have lived in France for one year, or for those who have been married to their French partner for one year,” Weil said.

“If they meet these requirements then they should be able to apply immediately,” he added.

Weil believes the move, which he believes could be implemented immediately and is not unprecedented in French legal history, would have the support of many French MPs in parliament.

The professor backed up his argument in a powerful column in French newspaper Le Monde.

“Let’s remember Churchill, and have France offer its citizenship to the British!” Weil writes.

“In France, British citizens have contributed to the revival of a great number of villages abandoned by their native population,” he says.

“They have voted in local elections, have been elected to municipal councils, and actively participate in the life of local communities. To all Britons who have formed such attachments to France, our message can only be one of welcome.

“And this welcome can, and must, take the form of immediate French citizenship for those that seek it." 

Weil adds: “It would not presume to determine the future of the UK within the EU. Rather, it would serve to send the message that the French have not forgotten their common past with the UK, and that they remain willing to build a future together.”

Last week Christopher Chantrey who is chairman of the British Community Committee of France told The Local his organisation has received numerous enquiries from people wanting to know how they can best safeguard their lives in France.

“In some cases people are applying for French citizenship while others are going down the path of trying to get a permanent residency permit,” said Chantrey.

Story continues below…

“They see it as an insurance policy because at the moment there is a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over them.”

“It’s early days but they just don’t know what will happen.”

Many would presumably support Weil’s idea.

French PM Manuel Valls suggested that the government could take a measure for British expats in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, but did not specify what he had in mind.

“I am thinking particularly of taxation and the status of expatriates. So I say to major international companies: Welcome to Paris! Come and invest in France!," Valls said.

And a similar idea has been mooted in Germany where vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said"Let us offer it (citizenship) to Britons who live in Germany, Italy or France, so they can remain European Union citizens in this country."

If France did allow British citizens to become French, Weil does not expect the government in London to reciprocate the move.

“If they did it for the French, they would have to do it for the Romanians and the Polish and that would undermine one of the main motives for Brexit,” he said.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

How Paris is rapidly becoming Europe's 'City of Innovation'
Photo: AFP

If you want to start a company then Paris is the place to do it, it seems.

'Jungle' clearance: Migrants begin to leave Calais camp
All photos: AFP

The "Jungle" clearance is underway.

France's 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
jobs available