Having successfully submitted my dossier for French naturalisation I am somewhat ambivalent to the proposals put forward by the British Government in round one of the UK’s Brexit negotiations, not least because, provided my application to become French is approved, they will have precisely no affect on me nor my immediate family.
I do have a great deal of empathy though for those living abroad, in the UK or in the EU, for whom the nonsense document published yesterday is supposed to safeguard “the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.” – a document that reads like a C-grade high school Social Science project.
Frankly, if anyone wanted clarity on the coming arrangements for citizens they need only to refer to section 33 which, as I am sure you will agree, couldn’t be more vague:
“The ability of EU citizens arriving after the specified date subsequently to obtain further or indefinite permission to stay will depend on the rules in place at the time at which they apply. These will be decided by the UK closer to the time.”
Apart from the fact that the “specified date” has not been specified, this statement gives us precisely no clue as to how EU citizens will be treated after the UK leaves the EU. Will they require visas? Will they be allowed to seek work? If they obtain a job – will their families be able to join them? etc.. But the British government don’t want to go into bothersome details like that – as that, obviously, will be the concern of whomever is in charge at the time (and it sure as shit ain’t going to be Theresa May).
What the document does focus on is sorting out the logistical nightmare of processing a possible 3 million right-to-remain applications. If past performance is anything to go by the British government are unlikely to have the processes, IT systems or manpower in place to deal with a sudden rush for status. To mitigate against this (likely almighty fuck up) they are proposing that everyone be allowed a “grace period” in which to get their paperwork in order.
Although the EU is unlikely to rubber-stamp this plan, what it implies is that British citizens currently living in the UK still now have a chance to move abroad and qualify for settled status in the EU after the UK leaves. So if you thought your dream of buying a farmhouse in the Limousin was dead – think again.
In the case of France, what is also highly likely, under the new liberal reign of President Macron, is that British citizens wishing to retire or make a life for themselves in France will be welcomed with open arms. Though of course learning French may still remain a requirement for any settlement status.
However, what if you move to France and then Brexit negotiations break down and the UK crash out of the EU without a deal on citizens rights? An eventuality which looks more and more likely as the days go by. Well, all is not lost. There are four easy ways to qualify for French citizenship:
- Marry a Frenchman/Frenchwoman
- Pay French taxes/social security for five years
- Study for a two year post-grad Master’s in France (and pass!)
- Serve in the French foreign legion for three years
So, regardless of the way the negotiations progress over the coming months you can still move to France now and hedge your bets by undertaking one or more of these paths to citizenship.
If you’re already married the easiest is probably number 2 – you can move to France today and set yourself up as self-employed tomorrow. If you’re tempted by the Master’s – be warned your level of French has to be pretty darn good. As for the French Foreign Legion – well, there’s obviously a few risks associated with that one, though possibly no more than you’d get by marrying a Frenchie.
Vive la Republique!