• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Opinion - Brexpats on Brexit
'It's stupid to think expats in France will be better off'
Photo:Damien Meyer/AFP

'It's stupid to think expats in France will be better off'

The Local · 26 Feb 2016, 09:10

Published: 26 Feb 2016 09:10 GMT+01:00

Christopher Owen is a British expat who has lived in the Charente for 16 years. As part of our series giving a voice to some of the hundreds of thousands of British nationals in France in the run up to the UK's EU referendum, he tells us how the arguments for leaving the Union are based on ignorance.

The EU is an experiment born of the atrocities of two world wars. In general terms, the EU has been a success - of course, as with all large institutions, many improvements could be made.

Great Britain is an important partner and ally in Europe, and common sense dictates that it should play a full role in the alliance of other European states. The problem is that politicians make that relationship complicated and partisan. Ask any citizen of Europe what they want and I would stake my life on the answers being generally similar to this view.

It was political nonsense to stage a referendum. There are very few people who fully understand the real nuts and bolts of the EU.

The arguments for leaving seem to revolve around sovereignty and cost. Conservative MP Michael Gove has just said that "we are not self governing" while in the Union. In that case, it's odd that (former UK Prime Minster) Tony Blair managed to decide to take Great Britain to war in Iraq without any interference from the EU.

If you ask any man in the street what the EU has stopped the UK from doing or made it do against its will, I suspect he would not be able to say. What's more, he would be unaware that the EU has actually improved his protection as a consumer when buying goods, improved working conditions, pay, and so on. Yet he is going to make a confident decision in total ignorance.

The figure often quoted for the annual cost of being a member of the EU always seems to be the gross figure before the rebates and subsidies are deducted. It is still a large figure, about the same as France pays. However, that is not really the point as far as helping folk decide whether to stay in. Many seem to think that leaving the EU would mean that the savings made will be redistributed.

Do we really believe that we shall all be "better off" after we leave? We can't be that stupid can we? No-one can accurately predict the consequences. There is no evidence that it will have a beneficial effect on the UK voter.

Nicolas Sarkozy managed to remove a large section of British citizens living in France from the health system. Almost at a stroke after reinterpreting EU regulations, people found themselves excluded. Iain Duncan-Smith masterminded the recent end to winter fuel allowance to pensioners in France. So, it is patronizing to those who have been around a bit, to say that all will be well and agreements will be renegotiated to look after us. When dealing with politicians of all colours and nationalities, it is wise to maintain a modicum of scepticism.

A referendum is the exercise of personal choice; Cameron has heralded that for his cabinet. It is only reasonable therefore that we all view and assess the possible effects from a personal perspective. I suggest that not one person moving from Great Britain to France or Spain or anywhere else in the EU, thought that there would be a threat to leave the EU and challenge our status here.

We all plan for the future and do our best to "cover all the bases". Unless one has no financial concerns , perhaps those in luxury in the South, it is not unreasonable to worry about the effects of Great Britain leaving the EU. I suggest that no one can predict the UK governments action on old age pension increases, nor reimbursements to allow pensioners to receive healthcare, in some cases, to maintain life giving treatments for cancer.

I am saddened to see unfeeling, unsympathetic and arrogant comments from fellow expats. Have your own beliefs and political leanings, sure, but it is not helpful to denigrate those who have concerns. If you have no concerns for the future, if the threat of leaving the European Community does not bother you, then you are lucky to be able to be cushioned from the world in which the rest of us have to live.

Story continues below…

Send us your views.

If you are an British expat in France and want to get your views on the Brexit off your chest and into the open then email the editor at ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com

In the run up to the Brexit we'll be highlighting how some of the 2.2 million Brits living in the EU are feeling.

Today's headlines
Where property prices have risen most in France
Photo: AFP

You might just have been priced out of the market if you're looking to buy in Bordeaux.

Official Paris refugee camps to open end of September
Photo: AFP

Will this see an end to the squalid makeshift camps that spring up across the city?

Paris Metro takes on 'air hostesses' to promote safety
Photo: RATP/Screenshot

Did you see the "air hostesses" on the Metro this week?

Paris region doubles security budget for schools
Photo: AFP

France is prioritizing the protection of schools amid a heightened terror threat.

All you need to know about changes in French schools
All photos: AFP

School's back tomorrow, with a raft of new changes. Here's what you need to know.

Emmanuel Macron the next French president - Really?
Emmanuel Macron: The next French president? Photo: AFP

Can the 38-year-old maverick and former Rothschild banker really become the president of France in eight months' time?

€50 million of coke found in Coke factory in France
File photos: Owen Blacker/Flickr and Adrian Scottow/Flickr

Employees have sniffed out 370kg of coke in a French Coke factory.

Morocco's king drains water supply from French villages
King Mohamed VI of Morocco. Photo: AFP

King in town + 300-strong entourage = no drinking water for a French village.

Macron vows 'to transform France from next year'
Photo: AFP

Ex-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron sets his sights on the presidency albeit without saying so.

French PM suggests naked breasts represent France
A statue of Marianne at the Place de la Republique in Paris, with her left breast on show. Photo: AFP

Just as the burqini ban furore was dying down French PM Manuel Valls has stirred things up again for suggesting naked breasts were a stronger symbol of the Republic than a Muslim headscarf.

Culture
16 things you almost certainly didn't know about France
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Politics
Emmanuel Macron: The whizzkid who could shake up French politics
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
2,751
jobs available