Pensioners in France hold breath after Theresa May delivers ‘hard Brexit’ plan

UK pensioners living in France were fearing the worst on Tuesday with the pound having fallen slightly ahead of the UK Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in which she announced plans to leave the EU single market.

Pensioners in France hold breath after Theresa May delivers 'hard Brexit' plan
Photo: Number 10/ Flickr

May announce plans for a ‘hard Brexit’ on Tuesday, confirming her plan to take Britain out of the European single market, which many business leaders have warned would hit the economy hard.

On Monday the pound dropped to around the €1.12 in official exchange rates, before recovering slightly. According to exchange sit XE the pound was worth €1.13 on Tuesday.

The drop in the pound against the euro on Monday came ahead of May's speech in front of ambassadors from around the world in Westminster.

May told ambassadors that the Brexit would mean leaving the EU single market.

“We will seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU,” she said.

“Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.”

The EU and France had been hoping May will actually put some meat on the bones of her Brexit plan, with French finance minister Michel Sapin blasting Britain on Tuesday for “improvising” over Brexit.

“All of this shows how helpless the British government is in the face of a situation that some of them didn't want,” Sapin said.

Each time Theresa May has suggested she will seek to leave the single market to ensure controls on immigration, the pound wobbles against the euro.

Hence fears ahead of Tuesday's speech. 

“We are holding our breath,” France-based British expat Brian Cave told The Local before May's speech on Tuesday.

Cave said that due to the fall in the pound, the income of some British people living in France has fallen by over 20 percent compared to before last June's referendum. And it could get worse after Tuesday.

Cave criticised May for not usingthe speech to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK which would ensure the status of British citizens living in the EU.

“I do not feel that she really grasps the fear and worry that so many British Citizens in the EU have,” said Cave.”The impression is that her thoughts were almost completely taken up with the economy and not the effect on ordinary citizens, either at home and certainly not those abroad.

Britain's Independent newspaper reported that some British travellers flying to France on Tuesday will even be paying over £1 for every euro, as one bureau de change at London's Gatwick airport valued the pound at only €0.97.

Marcello Mastioni, vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa for the holiday rental firm HomeAway told the Independent that this drop in the value of the pound could lead to as many as a third of British families to stay at home for their holidays this year. 

Some financial experts predict the pound will eventually fall below €1.10 while after the Brexit referendum some predicted the two currencies would eventually reach parity.

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. 

Lynda Adcock, a 63-year-old in Brittany, told The Local recently: “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.”
by Rose Trigg/Ben McPartland



Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.