Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, says he is “absolutely delighted” to retain a tie with the EU after Brexit as it was confirmed he had acquired French citizenship.
The former member of the European parliament said Boris responded to the news with one word: “Magnifique.”
France’s justice ministry confirmed that Stanley Johnson, whose mother, Irene Williams, was born in Versailles, secured nationality on Wednesday after his application last November. A statement said: “This decision only regards Mr Stanley Johnson and does not extend to his descendants.”
Stanley Johnson has said he voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. Boris Johnson, a figurehead for Vote Leave, led Britain out of the bloc at the end of 2020. However, Johnson Sr has since expressed support for Brexit.
On Friday, the former MEP told PA Media: “I’m absolutely delighted and have no idea at what level this decision was taken, but I do think it was a very imaginative thing to do at this moment, at a time when relations with France and the EU are not necessarily the best. I think it’s very nice for arms to be stretched out one way or another. I got a one-word reply from Boris, which said, ‘Magnifique’.”
The 81-year-old, who was born in Cornwall, served as an MEP 40 years ago and was one of the first UK civil servants to work in Brussels after Britain joined the EU – then the European Economic Community – in 1973. He went on to work for the European Commission.
Stanley Johnson said of his decision to seek nationality that the “most significant reason was really sentimental”, as his mother had been French.
He added: “It was a little gesture of saying that although the UK may have left the EU, we haven’t actually left Europe. It’s a tiny gesture on my part that I certainly don’t regard ourselves as being cast aside from Europe and I would say realistically, as we look ahead and try to solve these trade issues, the only way we’re going to solve them is to retain a degree of commonality in our two systems.”
He joins thousands of Britons who have acquired EU citizenship since the Brexit vote. He previously said: “It’s not a question of becoming French. If I understood correctly, I am French. My mother was born in France, her mother was entirely French, and her grandfather too. So for me it’s a matter of claiming what I already have.”
He is also on record as saying: “I will always be European, that’s for sure. 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.”
According to French law, foreigners with French relatives can no longer claim French nationality if their family has been settled abroad for more than 50 years without having exercised the rights linked to nationality. This is known as loss of nationality through désuétude, or disuse.
However, an article of the French civil code allows such people to regain French nationality by a simple declaration, subject to justifying “manifest cultural, professional, economic or family ties” with France or having fought for it. It was on this basis that Johnson is understood to have made a declaration of French nationality, Le Figaro reports.