British pensioners in France hit hard by sinking pound

The British pound is falling fast against the euro, and British pensioners in France are suffering from the squeeze.

British pensioners in France hit hard by sinking pound
Photo: AFP
At the time of writing, the British pound was worth €1.13, after it suffered a dramatic collapse in the early hours of Friday. 
This comes after the pound suffered another major drop back in June when the shock result of the Brexit vote was announced.
Pensioners living in France, many of whom rely on their British pensions, have told The Local how much the weakening pound has changed their lives – with many reporting a 30 percent drop in income. 
The last week of the pound against the euro. 
Can't justify a haircut
Debbie Coxon, 62, who lives in central France's Creuse department, said she has been left feeling “really emotional” after Friday's news, a feeling that's been lurking since the Britain voted to leave the EU.  
“We were horrified by the vote, and we're fed up of people not in our position saying, 'Nothing much will change' when it already has big time for us,” she told The Local. 
“With today's crash, we will now be into finite savings for every bill.”
She said that she has to wait until 2020 for her own pension, and that her husband only recently retired at the age of 69. 
“We know we can't let it get us down, but having just had to shell out for our winter oil and car service yesterday, that's when the edge is taken off living off the fresh veg and sunshine. 
“Personally I feel spat out and utterly ignored – I don't feel I can even justify having my hair cut as an unnecessary expense.”  
Photo: AFP
Can we put the heating on?
Lynda Adcock, a 63-year-old in Brittany, has been left in a similar boat. 
“We are really struggling at the moment and it has made us very sad and angry, just for the sake of a political spat between friends. I shall never understand the mess that the referendum had caused,” she told The Local. 
“The exchange rate means that we have to think about if we can put the heating on, what we eat and it has generally made a huge impact on our daily life. We always pay our bills first and keep a roof over our heads. That is what is important.”
“We have the added matter of feeling insecure with absolutely no information coming from the British government as to how they are going to treat us in times to come, post Brexit. 
“We worked hard and long for what we have today and came to France for a better life after my husband was made redundant as the exchange rate was good then and we could afford to live on his pension. It's very different now, we're always worrying about money and I hate it!”
The ups and downs of being both French and EnglishPhoto: AFP
Christmas won't be the same 
Sally Hipwood, a 67-year-old in south eastern France's Vienne department, said she has been left in dismay and fearing the future. 
“We have had to rein in our spending, for example we enjoy going to our local auberge for lunch and used to go two or three times a week, whereas now we have reduced it to once a week and, if the pound goes any lower, may have to abandon it altogether,” she told The Local. 
“I have already reduced the amount of money I spend each week on groceries. The biggest impact for me though is going to be that I will not be able to go to the UK to see my family as often as I would wish. 
“We have just about enough to manage the trip this Christmas (but have had to ask for a family agreement that the adult members do not buy presents for each other, gifts will be limited to the children) but further trips are currently in doubt, as bills continue to rise whilst our income falls.”
Dreading the bills
Cenydd Lowe in Brittany is on a fixed UK pension of around £1,300 per month which he said has seen a serious drop. 
“It used to be ample – now it's worth £300 less, and I'm having to live frugally,” he said. 
He added that he was “desperately trying” to get his business going in France to get some income in euros to make up the difference. 
“I'm well off though, relatively. I have friends who are unable to invite their friends round for meals as they're literally on the breadline.” 
He added, however, that he dreads the bills, doesn't go out for meals, and hasn't bought any clothes for a decade. 

Photo: Tommy Hemmert Olesen/Flickr 

Being mocked for living in Europe
Jane Shulver admits that fluctuations in currency was a part of the risk assessment she had made when choosing to up sticks and move to France. 
“However the total folly of Brexit and the way it is being handled has left us feeling very bitter about the knock-on effect on our finances,” she said. 
“It is as though we are being mocked for living in Europe. At the same time we have rising costs here. At this time of year big bills have to be paid so we've had to have a serious overhaul of our living costs, which are already fairly frugal by many people's standards. We'll need to cut down, and make far fewer visits back to the UK to see our family.”

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‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work.