Leave doesn’t mean leave as Nigel Lawson plans UK return after failing to gain French residency

PUBLISHED: 21:05 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:12 06 March 2019

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Brexiteer politician Nigel Lawson is selling his house in France and is set to return to the UK - months after announcing he was planning to apply for French residency.

The former chancellor, chair of the Vote Leave campaign, and Conservative peer has been living in south west France in a mansion since 2001. He still returns to the UK to participate in House of Lords debates.

He sparked controversy last year when he announced he would be applying for a permanent French residency card known as a carte de séjour. That is despite advocating that the UK leaves the European Union.

But it has been reported that Lawson has not applied for residency with his local authority, the préfecture of the Gers, and there is no record of his application.

He told Connexion, a newspaper for the English community in France, that was he selling up and blamed “French bureaucracy” for not yet receiving his card.

“My house is on the market. It’s well known that I live here, and when I’ve sold it I’ll be moving back to where my children and grandchildren live.”

According to social media speculation, Lawson would have had to have become a tax resident in France to obtain residency, and such a move would have jeopardised his seat in the House of Lords.

A French Interior Ministry source told the newspaper that tax residency abroad would usually block someone from being considered an habitual resident of France - something that is necessary for obtaining a carte de séjour.

But Lawson insists that he had always considered returning to the UK.

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He said the move for residency “was not with a view to staying, but to make sure I have medical coverage while I’m [in France]”.

He claims that he continued to pay tax in the UK, and denies that Brexit impacted his application.

The former Vote Leave chair did, however, concede that Brexit is “a complete mess” and that the prime minister’s proposed Brexit deal is “disastrous”.

Stephen Doughty MP, leading supporter of People’s Vote, said that “even the architects of Brexit are waking up to the reality of the mess Brexit has already created”.

“Lord Lawson considers Brexit to be a ‘complete mess’ and he’s right. The leadership of the Leave campaign promised the British public we could retain all the benefits of our EU membership without shouldering any of the responsibilities.

“Now we know even Lord Lawson thinks Brexit is a mess but he still wants to deny the British public the democratic right to have the final say on what is being proposed. A People’s Vote is the only way to resolve this national crisis. That’s why huge numbers will be marching through London on March 23 demanding that Brexit is put to the people for the final say.”

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