Britons in France ponder nationality over EU referendum
RENNES, France (AFP) – For the first time since she moved from Britain to France 18 years ago, Frances Bucquet is seriously considering taking French citizenship – and she blames British Prime Minister David Cameron.
English teacher Bucquet is angry at the premier’s announcement his government would hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union if it wins the next elections.
“I feel a bit embarrassed that my original country could be so uninterested in everybody else. I’m pretty annoyed about it actually,” she told AFP.
She said she would be happy to take on French nationality, partly because she could retain her British passport.
“I wouldn’t mind taking French nationality too because I want to be part of things over here,” she added.
The French statistics office INSEE says there are almost 154,000 British citizens living in France.
If Britain were to quit the EU, the status of British nationals in their adopted home country could change, raising practical questions about issues like French voting, residency and work rights.
But the rising tide of euroscepticism in the UK is also affecting British people in France on a more personal level. Bucquet and her French husband Jacques are concerned that one day their two children, who were born in France, will feel forced to choose between the two sides of their identities.
“If you’re brought up with two cultures, two languages, they’re part of you. You can’t choose between them. You need both,” she said.
The general mood in France seems somewhat ambivalent about the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union if the results of two surveys, both published at the end of January, are to be believed. One study, by pollsters BVA, found that 52 per cent of French people want the UK to go. But the other, conducted by IFOP, found 58 per cent were in favour of the British staying in the club.
Ken Tatham, originally from the northern English city of Leeds, is France’s first ever English mayor. In 1993 he acquired French citizenship and for the past 18 years he has been at the heart of political life in the tiny Normandy village of Saint Ceneri le Gerei.
Throughout that time, he has tried to foster friendship and understanding between France and Britain and he feels the recent rise of anti-European feeling in his former home country is not making his job easy.
“I have discussions with French friends and they say, ‘There you go. Britain’s at it again’. And then I become a Brit again. They don’t see me as a Frenchman,” he told AFP.