'I will reapply for nationality in two years'

British man who hit the headlines after being refused nationality despite living in France for 27 years and raising a family here tells Connexion he will stay despite citizenship knockback

3 February 2020
By Jane Hanks

A Briton who has lived in France for 27 years and sits on his local council has spoken to Connexion of his disappointment after his application for French nationality was rejected.

Mark Lawrence, 48, lives with his French partner and their five children in Plazac, Dordogne, where he has worked as a self-employed carpenter for 20 years - but his application was rejected because of his financial situation.

In a statement to Connexion, the Gironde Prefecture says that examination of his professional situation showed that, at the date of the decision April 8, 2019, Mr Lawrence's business was not sufficiently established, and that he had not been 'earning sufficient resources since the beginning of 2019'.

Mr Lawrence applied for citizenship in March 2018 and passed the required language test. He was called for the cultural interview in early 2019 and received a letter in April that year which was not a total refusal but an ajournement, which means he can reapply in two years’ time.

He immediately paid out €700 for a lawyer to appeal against the decision, but was turned down in October and will now have to wait until 2021 before he can apply again.

Mr Lawrence said he went through a bad financial period from 2016-2017, but added: “I have always paid my social charges, I have never asked for anything from the State and collect VAT from my clients which is passed on to the French government. I have nothing against the UK, but I have made my life here and will be staying. Everyone knows me in the village and no-one can understand it.”

His parents bought a house at Plazac 50 years ago, and he spent all his childhood holidays there.

When he grew up, he married a French woman - from whom he has now split - and they had three children. He lives with his partner and their child and her daughter from a previous relationship. All five children, who have French nationality, live with him and his partner.

Mr Lawrence speaks fluent French and has been on the council for six years, but now that he does not have French nationality he will not be able to stand for local elections this March.

He has the support of the local mayor, Florence Gauthier, who got in touch with regional newspaper Sud Ouest and since then he has been contacted by both French media and the UK, with his story both in The Times and on the BBC.

A friend has put up a petition on line which has received more than 34,000 signatures.

Mr Lawrence can continue to live in France as Britons who are resident in France before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 - and who do not also have French nationality - can automatically stay. But they will in the future need to obtain a residency card.

This card is of a new type set up especially for such Britons to show they benefit from the Brexit 'deal' and to differentiate them from Britons who come after the transition period and thus will not benefit from the Brexit 'deal'.

The French government last week said people will be able to apply via a new website which should open in early July 2020. The deadline to apply for a card at the very latest is the end of June 2021.

Mr Lawrence says these are strange political times and he thinks he applied just too late. He knows other British people in worse financial situations who applied earlier and were successful: “For now, I will just have to get on with my life and apply for a residency card when that is possible and reapply for nationality in two years' time.

“Nobody really seems to know what’s going on.”

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He has been contacted by another British resident this morning who was also turned down on economic grounds, despite living in France for a number of years.

The person is registered for work as an intermittent du spectacle, who works in the entertainment business where work is often not full time.

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