British expats ‘should be given French nationality’

France’s leading professor on all matters to do with citizenship tells The Local why British expats should be given French nationality.

British expats 'should be given French nationality'
Photo: AFP

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.

“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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


How and when to send Christmas presents from France

If you want to send Christmas presents to friends and family overseas you need to know the deadline dates and how to avoid being hit with extra charges - here's what you need to know.

How and when to send Christmas presents from France


First things first, you need to make sure your parcel arrives in time for Christmas, which means sending it before the deadline.

The French postal service La Poste has the following deadlines;

In Europe

If you’re sending a parcel within France, the deadline to have it delivered by Christmas is December 23rd. 

If you’re sending to the UK or Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spanish islands (eg Tenerife), Croatia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Portuguese islands (eg Madeira) or Romania you have until December 16th.

If you’re sending to Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden or Switzerland you have until December 17th.

If you’re sending to Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Portugal you have until December 19th.

Outside Europe

If you’re sending to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand or Hong Kong you have until December 10th. Likewise if you’re sending to most French overseas territories, the deadline is December 10th.

For most other countries the deadline is December 3rd, but you can find the full list here

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you’re buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Fees and customs declarations

If you’re sending parcels to another EU country then it’s pretty straightforward – just pay the delivery cost (you can check how much it will be to send via La Poste here) and make sure you send it before the deadline.

If, however, you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

Find full details on customs duty rules HERE.

Banned items

And there are some items that are banned from the post – if you’re sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don’t try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.

This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU.