Proudly British with a soupçon of French
- Credit: PA
A seven-fold increase in applications for citizenship EU countries has panicked Lynne Mortimer into looking for lost ancestry
As the British exit from the European Union nears we have been reading stories of people who pursue dual nationality in order, one presumes, to keep their options open.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, a trenchant leave supporter lives in... er... south-west France and, earlier this year we heard that he has applied for residency in France, his carte de sejour. Making a distinction, he loves Europe, he says, but feels the EU has been an economic failure.
Nigel Farage has dismissed reports he has applied for German citizenship as “complete rubbish”. Apparently, a while back, he was allegedly spotted in a queue at the German Embassy in London. The rumours gained purchase, one imagines because two of his children have dual British/German citizenship.
Meanwhile, a City firm that one of our most prominent leavers, Jacob Rees-Mogg, helped to found has established an investment fund in Ireland. It is reported that the new business, which was registered in March, will be governed by EU and Irish rules.
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But is it indicative of a stampede towards the EU?
A few weeks ago, the BBC reported a surge in UK citizens acquiring the nationality of another EU country since the Brexit referendum. In 2017 a total of 12,994 UK citizens obtained the nationality of one of the 17 member states (from which the BBC has received figures) compared with 5,025 in 2016 and only 1,800 in 2015.
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Germany and France are popular - Germany saw a jump from 594 cases in 2015 up to 7,493 in 2017. The leap is thought to be the result of Britons who can meet the criteria seeking to keep their legal rights attached to European Union membership. The 2017 figure is about seven times the 2015 level. Those seeking French nationality went up from 320 in 2015 to 1,518 last year and, third favourite was Belgium with an increase from 127 to 1,381 over the same period.
The situation in Ireland is a little different because those born in Northern Ireland are already entitled to Irish citizenship. However, the numbers were still up from 54 in 2015 to 529 in 2017.
Looking down the table of numbers, there are countries relatively unaffected by the surge – Poland, Slovakia and Romania numbered less than 10 each while Estonia had none at all – although it does offer e-residency.
Those who apply for dual citizenship have to meet certain criteria and this can vary country to country but, by and large, you will need some comparatively recent familial connection to the country – a parent or, maybe a grandparent of that nationality. In Germany, the children of Jewish refugees are eligible for German citizenship.
Ireland is a good option because you can qualify on ancestry even if your parents weren’t born there. Moreover, it recognises dual citizenship so you won’t have to relinquish your British passport. Find out more at: http://www.citizensinformation.ie
Estonia’s e-residency does not provide a passport or a right to live in the country but people living anywhere in the world can sign up over the internet to receive an Estonian government ID and gain a special category of residency that can help, for example, with running a business.
But what could I do? I am English as far back as I can go... in fact I consider myself 100% East Anglian. Mother’s side, Norfolk; father’s side, Suffolk. And I married a man of similar heritage – by accident rather than design.
I believe some countries will accept a vast sum of money in lieu of ancestry but I do not have that sum.
My one glimmer of hope is my DNA test results. Oxford Ancestors checked my maternal profile and the results showed I was the most common type (story of my life), descended from the matriarch Helena. Helena’s clan is the largest and most successful of the seven native clans of Europe, claiming 41% of Europeans. It all began 20,000 years ago with the birth of Helena somewhere in the valleys of the Dordogne and the Vezere, in south-central France. Her clan is widespread throughout Europe, but reaches its highest frequency among the Basque people of northern Spain and southern France. I can also claim a little bit of Celt in my make-up but we won’t go there.
What this does prove is that I have solid roots in France and this despite an excruciatingly poor grade 5 in O level French. Eh bien, mes amis à travers la Manche, donnez-moi le passeport Français. S’il vous plait.