Nigel Lawson, a former chair of the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum and one of tens of thousands of Britons living in France, is to apply for his official French residency card.
The former chancellor said he had started the process of applying for one of the cards, known as a carte de séjour, which British expatriates are being encouraged to obtain to help bolster their rights after the UK withdraws from the EU, but added that he was “not particularly worried”.
Lord Lawson was speaking to the Connexion, a newspaper for the English-speaking community in France, which asked him if he was concerned about the impact of EU immigration controls. European officials have warned that Britain’s new blue passports could lead to travel delays and extra paperwork rather than the enhanced freedom promised by the government.
He replied: “I’m not particularly familiar with it, but as I live in France I’m not concerned. There may be a few bureaucratic hoops to be gone through, which are tiresome, but I don’t think it’s a serious problem.
“I know Americans who live for varying lengths of time in France and they find things perfectly tolerable.”
While some Britons in France have reported problems or concerns around the paperwork and criteria required for obtaining a residency card, Lawson was unworried.
“Yes, I’ve just started and don’t know how it will work out, but I am not particularly worried,” he said. “It comes under the category of tiresome rather than serious.
“I understand some people are worried about healthcare cover and hope it will be sorted out. Speaking as a Brit in France – and I’m not applying for French nationality – I am not worried.”
Lawson said he did not believe the issue of Britons living in other EU countries was a big problem in the Brexit negotiations.
The former Conservative MP has been ridiculed by opponents of Brexit for his eagerness to free the UK from the perceived shackles of Brussels while continuing to live in a mansion in Gascony, south-west France.
Peter Timmins, who describes himself on Twitter as a “blissfully retired European, living life to the full in the south-west of France” said of the Tory peer: “Lord Lawson, the pro-#Brexit peer who lives in France but wants to deny other UK citizens the right to freely work or retire here, has applied for a carte de séjour to facilitate permanent settled status post #Brexit. One rule for him another for the rest. Merde va te faire foutre.”
Interviewed at his Gascony home before the referendum, Lawson told the Guardian: “I love Europe! That’s why I live in France.”
Lawson was named chair of Vote Leave in February 2016 as it struggled to quell infighting in the run-up to the referendum, before being succeeded two months later by Gisela Stuart.
Nigel Farage is also among prominent leave campaigners who have been accused of hypocrisy after the referendum result.
He sparked outrage last year by refusing to give up his taxpayer-funded EU pension after Brexit, asking: “Why should my family suffer?”
It is understood the 53-year-old former Ukip leader will be entitled to an annual pension of £73,000 when he turns 63.