SHARE
COPY LINK
GUESTBLOG - BREXIT IMPACT

EXPATS

How a Brexit would make life uncertain for Brits in France

A France-based British expat lays out everything that will be up in the air for Brits living in France, if the UK votes to leave the EU.

How a Brexit would make life uncertain for Brits in France
Photo: AFP

Brian Cave, a British national living in Gourdon, a town in the Lot, south-western France, is a long time campaigner for the rights of British expats abroad. He has been involved in the fight to get the 15-year voting rule lifted that bars long term expats from voting in general elections and he is part of the campaign to try and make sure all British expats can vote in the EU referendum. 

Here he spells out how he believes life will get far more complicated for Brits in France post Brexit:

 

I took advantage of the European Union to retire to live in France.  I celebrate the cementing of European Culture across the nation states.  During my time I have had more irritation with British bureaucratic intransigence than with the French.  What follows is a view of the problems that the generations of British citizens, who might want to live abroad in other EU states, could face in the years to come. 

Jobs

Those seeking to be employed would have to obtain some form of work permit. Unskilled workers would find it extremely hard to establish themselves, if it were at all possible.

Those wishing to set up businesses – perhaps as plumbers or other technical craftsmen would find it near impossible.

(AFP)

Money exchange

There would be no guarantee that State pensions would be paid without change –  British Law – The Pension Act 2014 clause 20 – permits the Minister of DWP to freeze pensions paid to citizens who live abroad. The clause was included despite protests.

All money transfers -The individual EU States could impose a tax on money coming from the UK.  It has happened before. 

The British Government could impose ceilings on money going abroad – it has done so before – Mrs Thatcher removed such a ceiling.

Without the protection afforded by EU regulations nothing is certain.  This will be labelled scare mongering by Brexiteers – but what is certain is the uncertainty. If Brexit should fall, all would depend on negotiations between the UK and the other 27 States, taking years.

Uncertainty will cause the value of the £ to fall as it already has done.

(AFP)

Possibilities of other restrictions

With the lifting of the protection of the EU regulations, each EU State is able to act independently.  This opens the way for restrictions to be imposed on bank accounts of foreigners or on their property or any other discriminatory taxes and laws, without any EU wide protection.

The incipient freedom to open UK based bank accounts and use UK financial institutions would falter.

Medical Care 

(HangInThere/Flickr)

Again it is the EU regulation [883/2004] which establishes the right to provision of health care across the EU.  This is at two levels.

1. The European Health Insurance Card –EHIC .  This is issued by the citizen’s ‘Competent State’ for Social Security to all travellers within the EU and entitles such to any emergency treatment for visitors in another State. This would cease.

2. The treatment for resident pensioners and their dependents.  The Medical care is given as though one is a national of the State where the Citizen is resident but the cost of that is borne by the NHS. – (i.e the Social Security of the ‘Competent State’).

Visa requirements

As happens now with Americans who wish to reside in France, immigrants (for that is what future citizens would be) would be required to demonstrate financial stability. This can affect accompanying spouses and the visits of family and friends. 

Visas often have time limits.

Citizenship

The possibility of voting for and serving on local communal councils will cease.  British citizens will no longer be considered as normal members of the community. This will cause changes of approach at any public department where  public servants operate.

Border checks

(Sergei Vladimiriv/Flickr)

British Citizens would have to pass through NON-EU gates at the EU borders which would be likely to prove onerous with more detailed inspection.

Nationality

British Citizens would cease to be European Citizens protected under EU law. They would be immigrants and foreigners. Britons living abroad could apply for nationality of  the country in which they reside, but it is an expensive and lengthy process and Austria does not permit dual citizenship. Surrendering British Nationality would be foolish.

If you want to vote in the referendum you can register by CLICKING HERE.

Brian Cave is the author of the blog Pensioners Debout. He wrote this article with the help of Frank Jackson, another British expat in France.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

SHOW COMMENTS