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How Meghan’s royal baby could become an American – and secure the special relationship for good

The royal baby’s Americanness can be far more important to our diplomatic ties than President Donald Trump’s controversial state visit this June

Where will Harry and Meghan's baby fall in the royal line of succession?

The news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have their first child this year was greeted warmly by the world’s media. The couple give the monarchy a new face and fresh approach, and the royal birth an opportunity to improve the “special relationship”.

The newest member of the House of Windsor can claim dual nationality from both the UK and USA when born in a royal first. While he or she would be British through Prince Harry, the child could become an American citizen through his or her mother. This is where things can get interesting.

The royal baby would be able to obtain two passports, but his or her parents can only use their current one. Prince Harry does not qualify for American citizenship and Meghan will need to live in the UK for at least five years before she is able to apply to become British despite being Prince Harry’s spouse. So the baby could have more passports than either parent. This might also be a royal first.

As a royal, the baby would be required to refrain from voting in British elections when 18 years old out of convention. But no such restriction appears in place to stop him or her voting in US elections. It would be possible for the Queen’s grandchild to run for political office in the US or support other candidates. That would certainly get attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

There are downsides to being a dual citizen of the UK and the US however, which I know personally. One is that Americans must file annual tax returns and potentially pay taxes to the US – an issue that might affect the royal household. This is true even if someone has never lived in the US, earned any income in the US or left the UK. While America might not be the world’s police, the US authorities have a reach over their citizens around the world as a global tax man – and this reach would potentially extend to Prince Harry and Meghan’s children.

The only way to break free was to do what former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a dual national of the UK and USA since birth, did and pay a large fee to the US government in return for ending forever his citizenship.

This should be avoidable and unnecessary. Citizenship is about a connection, not a backhanded way to get bank records and tax receipts from people paying full tax elsewhere. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s child could make a new start in redrawing this imperialistic worldview, allowing the part American royal in Britain to pay his or her taxes to the UK only – and perhaps in return help create a new bond with the US at a time when post-Brexit Britain needs it most. The royal baby’s Americanness can be far more important to the special relationship over time than President Donald Trump’s controversial state visit this June.

We should all welcome the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s good news for this special year ahead – and the new opportunities this modern royal family can help make possible to develop a more special relationship across the Atlantic.

Thom Brooks is Dean of Durham Law School and author of ‘Becoming British’ (2016)

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