The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

He chaired the campaign for Britain to leave the E.U. Now he’s applying for residency in France.

British Chancellor Nigel Lawson poses with the Budget Box in Downing Street, London, in March 1984. (Peter Kemp/AP)

In 2016, Nigel Lawson, the former chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, said Brexit was a “historic opportunity” to make the United Kingdom the “most dynamic and freest country” in Europe.

It turns out he's now applying for residency in France.

Many British expats are scrambling to secure residency outside of Britain to avoid trouble with immigration paperwork and work permits as the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union. Since Brexit, E.U. officials have warned British citizens that their post-Brexit passports, which will be navy blue instead of the E.U. burgundy, could cause delays in immigration lines.

In a conversation with the Connexion, an English-language newspaper printed for the expat community in France, Lawson said he has begun the process of securing his official carte de séjour in France.

“Yes, I’ve just started and don’t know how it will work out, but I am not particularly worried,” the pro-Brexit campaigner said about his efforts to secure residency. “It comes under the category of 'tiresome' rather than 'serious.' " He lives in Gascony, in southwest France.

Lawson served in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet in the 1980s, and called Brexit “a chance to finish the Thatcher revolution.” But his opponents say he's a hypocrite for insisting Britain leave the E.U., and then benefiting from the union by setting up residency there.

Paul Butters, director of communications at Best for Britain, a pro-E.U. group, said that “the idea that the chairman of Vote Leave has applied for his residency card in France takes the biscuit.”

“It seemed to Lawson that no cost was not worth paying to leave,” Butters said. “But with this news, it seems the cost will be paid by others while the former chancellor suns himself in his luxury home in France.”

In a 2016 interview with the Guardian ahead of the referendum, Lawson insisted he had nothing against Europe but just found the E.U. to be impractical for Britain and an impediment to self-governance.

“I love Europe!” he said. “That's why I live in France.”