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Barred by Brexit: France’s British elected officials forced to step down

Maggie Gorman is among hundreds of British town councillors in France no longer eligible for election following Brexit.
Maggie Gorman is among hundreds of British town councillors in France no longer eligible for election following Brexit. © FRANCE 24

France’s local elections get underway on March 15, but hundreds of currently serving town councillors will not be on the ballot. No longer European Union citizens following Brexit and so ineligible to hold office, British elected officials across the country are being forced to step down.

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There are around 760 British councillors in towns across France, many in communities popular with expats from the United Kingdom. Some have been living in France for decades and serving on their town councils for years.

But unless they take French citizenship, or that of another EU nation, this will be their last term in office. Only EU citizens can stand or vote in the country's local elections.

“Because a village has shown you so much support and been so warm, it was really an honour to feel that there was possibly a way that you could give something back,” says Maggie Gorman, who has been on the town council in the village of Sainte-Alvère in the Dordogne since 2001.

“It’s not bragging but I got more votes than any other member on the list. And that was just such a show of faith and confidence and trust that now it just feels terrible.”

Mark Lawrence, who is on the council in the nearby town of Plazac, will also be stepping down after this month’s elections.

That is despite his attempt to take French citizenship post-Brexit to keep his position. A resident in France for 27 years, his application was rejected over his financial situation.

“I was gutted,” he says. “I felt I’d been badly judged by the French government, not by my friends or the local community.”

For many residents of Plazac, it means losing a trusted and valued representative.

“I think it’s a real shame when someone who puts a lot into the town … to kick them out just because they don’t have French nationality,” says bar worker Odile, “because at a European level they have taken a decision, without taking into account the citizens, whether English or French.”

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