January 8, 2019 / 12:33 PM / in 4 months

Austria to loosen ban on dual citizenship for Brexit-hit nationals

FILE PHOTO: A man carrying a bag adorned with a British Union Jack flag steps into a bus departing from Sofia's central bus station to London via Austria, Germany and France January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria will create an exception to its ban on dual citizenship for its nationals living in Britain facing the prospect of Brexit, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, leaving open whether it would do the same for Britons in Austria.

Austria is one of just a handful of European Union countries that ordinarily bans dual citizenship. Austrians who acquire citizenship in another country usually lose their Austrian nationality, and foreigners are expected to give up other passports if they become Austrians.

There are exceptions to that long-standing ban, and the conservative and far-right coalition government plans to create a new one for the roughly 25,000 Austrians who have made Britain their home, Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said.

Kneissl told a news conference she would bring up the issue at a cabinet meeting later this week.

Asked whether such an exception would also be created for Britons in Austria, Kneissl said: “That is an interesting question” but there was no such plan. Around 11,000 British citizens live in Austria.

The question of what will happen in the event of Britain crashing out of the bloc without a withdrawal agreement governing everything from flying rights to the status of either side’s nationals has come into focus as Britain’s parliament appears unwilling to approve a deal negotiated with the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday that Britain would be in uncharted territory if parliament rejected her Brexit deal in a vote that she has already delayed and now plans to hold around Jan. 15.

Britain has announced a new online system here which it says will be up and running by March 30, to let EU citizens apply for "settled status" to stay after Brexit.

A German Interior Ministry spokesman said on Monday that British citizens will retain their residence rights in Germany for a three-month period, with further extensions possible, if their country leaves the EU without an exit deal.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Peter Graff

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