Is citizenship or permanent residency the expat answer to Brexit

Published:  28 Jun at 6 PM
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Ever since last Thursday’s shocking referendum result, social media has been buzzing with EU-based expat suggestions of how to avoid being forced back to the UK.

Prior to the vote, expat media outlets in several EU member states carried reports that long-term British expats were hedging their bets by applying for citizenship of their countries of residency. Now that scary suspicions have been replaced by awful realities, many more are deciding to become French, Spanish or even Bulgarian rather than resume living in the UK.

Amazingly, the first EU member state to encourage expats to stay by offering citizenship is Bulgaria, whose Prime Minister this morning issued an invitation to all Britons at present in his country. Boyko Borisov is reported as saying that those pondering how to stay in Bulgaria are welcome to apply for citizenship. The offer affects some 7,000 British nationals at present living and working in the capital, Sofia, as well as in smaller towns and rural areas.

In Spain, a leading British businessman is urging expats to apply for nationality, if only as a protest against what he sees as a potential disaster for Britain. Hotel magnate Peter Whaley is furious that a mass of ‘older, white little Englanders’ are forcing the country into the worst mess for decades. Britain, he says, has voted for instability and disunity which may well continue for years to come. He’s encouraging all younger Brits, especially Londoners, to move to the continent and take Spanish nationality.

Even before the vote, some UK expats living in France were either thinking about or actually taking French citizenship. Now that Brexit is an unwelcome fact, the trickle of applicants is expected to grow to a flood. France has always been a favourite for Brits wanting to start new businesses, for retirees appreciating its closeness to UK friends and family and for the thousands of expats enjoying their lifestyles as residents in French towns and villages.

Italy has its fair share of resident Britons, drawn by it's dramatic history, food, wine, laid-back lifestyle, beauty and friendliness of this ancient land. British-run businesses in Italy are now in panic mode, not wanting to give up on the lives they’ve built for themselves. UK expats who’ve been living and working in Italy for more than five years can apply for permanent residency. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare, but anything’s better than returning to the UK!
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