I don’t write about politics on this blog. Of course, I have my views, but I generally keep them to myself. So I haven’t mentioned the ‘B’ word (okay, Brexit) in my posts so far. However, I can’t ignore it – and haven’t. With the increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit after 29th March next year, those of us who live permanently in France have some choices to make, even though the implications are far from clear.
We have lived in France for almost 21 years, have run a French company, pay our taxes here and are fully integrated into the health system, and so on. My husband is Swedish, and so he will remain a citizen of an EU country after Brexit. I don’t for a moment think that I will be kicked out of France (although, theoretically, that is a possibility), but life might become more difficult in certain ways.
As things stand, the situation is utterly shambolic and full of uncertainty for those of us who moved here thinking our position was secure under EU rules. Our French friends think the whole thing is bonkers and are totally sympathetic, although powerless to help.
I am fortunate to hold a carte de séjour, which grants me residency. However, this states that I am a ressortissant (national) of an EU country. My status post-Brexit will be Third Country National (TCN). Will France require TCNs to re-apply for a different type of carte de séjour post-Brexit, with the documentary paper chase this would involve?
What are the options?
- Wait to see what the French government’s requirements will be?
- Apply for French citizenship?
- Apply for citizenship of another EU country if eligible?
As far as I am concerned, doing nothing is not an option.
I have, in fact, intended for years to apply for French citizenship, but since procrastination is my middle name, I haven’t yet done so. Having lived out of the UK for more than 15 years, I am no longer eligible to vote there (and, by the way, was thus unable to vote in the referendum that affects me personally). In France, I am allowed to vote in the municipal elections and the EU elections (presumably not for much longer), but not for the president or the Assemblée Nationale. That was my main reason for wanting to apply for French citizenship; Brexit has reinforced my intentions.
But…the process is currently taking around two years or more, appointments are full at the Préfecture for the foreseeable future and the list of documents required is eye-wateringly long. In addition, all documents not in French must be translated by an approved translator. For someone inclined to put off until next month what they ought to do today, this is something of a disincentive.
I have another option, though. Irish citizenship. A grandparent was born in Ireland, which makes me eligible to become an Irish citizen. The process is simpler, the number of documents required fewer and easier to get hold of and it currently takes about six months, provided the application is approved. Ireland remains an EU country.
This raises a number of issues, though. While the Irish government seems to be welcoming people with open arms, would I be utterly cynical by taking citizenship when I don’t plan ever to live there?
I would still be unable to vote fully in France, so I would want to apply for French citizenship as well once I have the Irish one. I can’t do it simultaneously, since they require originals of many documents and not photocopies.
Also, would I be permitted to hold three separate citizenships? My researches so far show that it’s a complex issue and that all three countries might have to agree.
One thing is clear. I want to stay here and I have absolutely no desire to live in the UK again.
My writing friend Alison Morton, who is in a similar position, has written an interesting post on this subject.