Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, who is leading France's preparations for a no-deal Brexit, told The Local that France will help Britons secure their status in France.
The French government is currently passing a bill that would allow them to pass laws by decree to avoid the huge number of problems, including those for Britons in the country and the probable chaos at the borders, if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
“They (British citizens) are a priority,” Loiseau told The Local but said London must show they see the French in the UK in the same way.
“The fact we have dedicated one whole chapter of this bill to the status of Britons living in France shows how important they are to us.
“It shows that we want them to stay. We want them to be able to work, study or be retired here.
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“We will make our best possible efforts to make sure that if there's a no-deal their situation will remain as positive as it is today. But we need precise assurances from the British authorities on our fellow French citizens. That of course is my responsibility as a member of the government.”
The minister said she could not give details yet on what Britons will have to do to secure their status in France if there's a no deal saying “various options were being explored”.
She said French authorities would be “as open and as generous as possible” in securing the status of Britons in France.
“We are working on the case of a transitory period which will allow people to remain in France so they can complete their procedures.”
The minister said she would not give a concrete time limit for how long that period of grace would be.
The minister gave evidence on Wednesday morning to the special parliamentary commission set up to examine the impact of a no-deal Brexit and the government's bill to deal with the predicted chaos.
Loiseau said that French local authorities would be given the capacity to be able to deal with the huge demand that would arise from British applicants.
She also said that local authorities around France had been made aware of the “special interest” Britons have in applying for French nationality.
She suggested that those local authorities should look at applications from Britons in a favorable light given Brexit is approaching.
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“We explained why these applications should be considered with openness,” she told The Local.
Loiseau also stressed that one of the constraints on France was that EU governments had been instructed by the chief negotiator in Brussels Michel Barnier not to negotiate any agreement with the UK that is better than what is in the deal on the table.
But she did say the France could offer Britons the equivalent rights to what are listed in the withdrawal agreement as long as there is reciprocity from the UK.
The French government is encouraging Britons to apply for a carte de sejour residency permit to help avoid any post Brexit rush whether or not there is a deal.
Many Britons are worried about for applying for fear they don't have enough income to prove they are self-sufficient. They fear being turned down and as a result asked to leave the country, which has already reportedly happened to one elderly Briton.
Those same fears will only be increased after Brexit and Loiseau told The Local that the government would look closely at the issue but added a warning.
“This is the case for citizens of all third countries. We have to make sure that they have sufficient means to stay in the country,” she said.
France is pushing ahead with its preparations for a no-deal given that as Loiseau said herself there is severe doubt over whether the deal on the table will be ratified by the British parliament.
Loiseau told French lawmakers there was no doubt that Brexit was “bad news for both the UK and the EU.”