France praises nationality bid by British leader's dad

FILE - In this Thursday, March 16, 2017 file photo, Stanley Johnson poses for a portrait as he talks to the Associated Press at the London Book Fair, in London, about his forthcoming thriller based around a fictitious Brexit scenario. As Britain prepares to split from the European Union, the father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be seeking closer ties with the bloc by applying for French citizenship. Stanley Johnson told broadcaster RTL on Thursday Dec. 31, 2020, that he was in the process of reclaiming his French identity. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File) (Alastair Grant, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CALAIS – France's government cast a favorable light Friday on a reported bid by the father of Britain's prime minister to take up French nationality, saying it shows how attached Britons are to the European Union that they're no longer part of.

Reports that Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seeking to keep a foot in Europe by taking up French citizenship made headlines just as his son lead Britain's split Thursday from the EU. Britain left the European bloc’s vast single market for people, goods and services at 11 p.m. London time on New Year’s Eve.

Visiting Calais on Friday to inspect how the French port is adjusting post-Brexit, France's minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, described the citizenship application as emblematic of enduring British sentiment for Europe.

“If Mr. Johnson's father has a right to French nationality, wants to remain a European citizen and become a French citizen, then we will examine that,” he said. “To me, this is a wink, or a sign, that lots of British people, in different ways, still love Europe."

“There are many people in the United Kingdom for whom this is also a sad day,” Beaune added.

The elder Johnson, 80, is a former member of the European Parliament who backed remaining in the EU in Britain’s 2016 membership referendum. He has since expressed support for his son as the prime minister led the U.K. out of the bloc.

French nationality would give the elder Johnson the automatic rights that other Britons have now lost, including being able to travel and live freely in all of the 27 EU countries.

Stanley Johnson told broadcaster RTL on Thursday that he was in the process of “reclaiming” his French identity.

“It is not a question of 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 told RTL. “So for me it is a question of reclaiming what I already have.”

“I will always be European. That is certain,” Stanley Johnson said. “You cannot tell the English: ‘You are not European.’ Europe is always more than the common market, more than the European Union.'' ___

John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed.