Councillor to take French citizenship to stay in role

OWEN Goldring, 71, a British municipal councillor from Charente, said it would be “an absolutely fantastic gesture” if the time was reduced.

“Theresa May said she will use British nationals abroad and EU nationals in the UK as ‘bargaining chips’ in the Brexit negotiations.

“If the French turn round and say ‘come and become a French citizen; you only have to have lived here a year’ – that would be lovely and would send a message to the UK parliament.”

Dr Goldring, a former university lecturer, has been a councillor in his village, Bonneville, since 2014. He said: “My wife and I both feel part of France and very much part of Europe. I was approached by the now mayor in 2013 who said he’d like to get me on the council.

“I said ‘why? I’m an étranger’ and he said ‘it doesn’t matter; you’re European’. When I was elected I felt honoured to be the first foreigner to sit on the council in the history of the commune – so it rubs it in for me all the more about this Brexit vote.”

Dr Goldring said he offered to resign after the referendum but the council did not want him to.

“I have had wonderful responses from people here who know that we are very pro-Europe and France.

“One person told me: ‘All you need to do now is become French’, and that’s what we plan to do. He added if we can just support Les Bleus as well, then we will be really integrated!”

Dr Goldring said he loves being involved in practical decisions that help the local people.

“It’s things like asking for a school bus route to be altered so children from a new family can be picked up near home instead of walking down an unlit road in winter’. To me it’s a pleasure and an honour and there’s a lot of humour in the meetings as well.”

  • A study by Dr Sue Collard, a senior lecturer in French Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex, found there were 830 British local councillors elected in France in 2014 to serve a six-year mandate.
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