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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Explained: Why is Boris Johnson’s father applying for French citizenship?

Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is applying for French citizenship just as the United Kingdom breaks away from the European Union. What is the reason for his decision?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 6, 2021 8:36:55 am
Stanley Johnson, the father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, appears to be seeking closer ties with the EU by applying for French citizenship. (AP Photo: Alastair Grant, File)

Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has said he is applying for French citizenship, just as the UK finally ended its ties with the European Union. The elder Johnson, who also belongs to the ruling Conservative Party of which his son is the current leader, voted for the UK to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Boris, on the other hand, was among the most prominent political figures who led the ‘Leave’ campaign, and subsequently consolidated his hold over the party, eventually becoming Prime Minister.

On New Year’s Eve, the UK officially departed from the EU single market and customs union as its post-Brexit deal with the bloc came into force.

Why is Stanley Johnson applying for a French passport?

Speaking in French to France’s RTL radio, Stanley said he considers himself French, since his mother was born there. “It’s not about becoming French. If I understand correctly I am French! My mother was born in France, her mother was completely French as was her grandfather,” he said.

Aged 80, Stanley was among the first civil servants from the UK to work for the EU after the country joined the bloc in 1973, according to France24. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) between 1979 and 1984 from the Conservative Party, and later went on to work for the European Commission.

“I will always be European, that’s for sure,” Johnson said during the interview. “For me it’s a question of obtaining what I already have and I am very happy about that.”

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Johnson voted ‘Remain’ during the 2016 referendum, but later changed his mind, and has since expressed support for leaving.

“You can’t tell the English: you’re not European. Europe is more than the single market, it’s more than the European Union. That said, to have a link like that with the EU is important,” Johnson said, in an apparent reference to an EU passport.

Although the UK has entered into a post-Brexit deal with the EU, most Britons will lose their automatic right to work and travel in the bloc of 27 countries starting 2021. As per a Guardian report, more than 3.5 lakh Britons applied to become dual nationals of another EU state as of January 2020, so as to acquire EU citizenship.

Differences within the family

Boris’ father is not the only person in his family who has had a divergent opinion over Brexit.

Jo Johnson, Boris’s brother and a Conservative Party MP, left a cabinet position in 2018 to express support for stronger ties with the EU.

His sister Rachel Johnson, a journalist, left the Conservative Party in 2017 in protest against Brexit and joined the Liberal Democrats Party, which is currently the fourth largest political group in the British parliament.

Rachel had revealed her father’s decision to apply for a French passport in March 2020, and has also said that if he gets the citizenship, she too would apply to become a French national.

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