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As Brexit Talks Stall, The Hunt Is On For European Passports

Millions of British citizens don't want to give up being European.

As Brexit Talks Stall, The Hunt Is On For European Passports
Florentin Collomp

It was supposed to be the top priority of Brexit negotiations, the easiest issue to deal with given the goodwill for it declared on both sides. And yet, London and Brussels can't reach an agreement on the fate of the 3.2 million European citizens residing in the United Kingdom and of the 1.2 million British citizens living in Europe. While the European Union has devoted much attention to their citizens in the UK, British citizens in Europe feel their government has forgotten them.

Our life is on hold

"We're being completely ignored," laments Kathryn Dobson, who lives in France's western region Poitou-Charentes, where she publishes Living, a magazine for British expats in France. Dobson's family left Britain 15 years ago. She's now worried about the fate of her magazine as well as her future and that of her three daughters, aged 15 to 20.

"Our life is on hold," she says. "Our government hasn't taken into account the complexity of our situation."

One of her daughters, Emily, 18, a British citizen who grew up in France, is spending the second year of her management studies degree in the Netherlands as part of the Erasmus exchange program. As a citizen of a former member of the EU, she benefited from a special tuition fee and a grant form the French government. But nothing guarantees that her rights will be maintained after Brexit. In the meantime, she's initiated a procedure to obtain French citizenship and her mother is considering doing the same.

"Banksy does Brexit" — Photo: Duncan Hull/Flickr

The situation certainly remains murky. The European bloc's proposals cast doubt on the ability of British citizens to move freely on the continent. They could end up under "house arrest" in the country they are residing in when Brexit is applied, unable to travel elsewhere in Europe.

"If you live in Luxembourg and work in Brussels like I do, this is catastrophic," says Fiona Godfrey, a public health consultant and founder of the association British Immigrants Living in Luxembourg (Brill). She wants to believe that there's still hope for a favorable solution by the end of the next round of British-EU negotiations in late August.

Not all British expats are waiting. Some have already started to seek European citizenship.

60% of British citizens would like to be European after Brexit.

According to a survey conducted by Brill, 70% of British nationals living in Luxembourg are doing just that. But they can only do so if they've been residing in the country for at least five years and if they pass the test for local language Luxembourgish.

This option doesn't exist in nine European countries that don't authorize dual citizenship. In the union's remaining nations, "the criteria vary from country to country, and even, from region to region, like in Germany for example," explains Daniel Tetlow, vice-president of the Berlin-based association British in Europe. The organization already boasts 35,000 members and adds 50 to 100 new ones every day. "It's the first time that Brits in Europe have had to organize. There's a lot that needs to be done to fight against the lack of understanding regarding our status, even among British politicians."

A growing number of British nationals no longer believe in the promises from London and Brussels that assure them that nobody is going to be deported. They now believe that any agreement to safeguard their status depends on Brexit negotiations on finance, trade, and the like. There are no guarantees these talks will be successful. This attitude explains why British nationals are now rushing to obtain their European passports. According to a study by the London School of Economics, 60% of these citizens would like to be European after Brexit. In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Even those nationals who live in Britain are said to be looking for ways to obtain a second passport. So they've started to explore their family trees. Some 10% of British citizens can become Irish nationals if they have at least one grandparent from Ireland. As a result, the demand for Irish passports in the UK has doubled since the British referendum to leave Europe.

There are other possibilities. Jews of German origin are trying to obtain German nationality. Others are looking into Portugal and Lithuania — countries that offer similar naturalization mechanisms. For a part of the British population disgusted by Brexit, it's about having a way out of the mess.

"I know more Brits who've left the UK since the referendum than Brits who've returned," Tetlow says.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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