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.
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.
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.
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.
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’).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.