Brits living in France are growing increasingly worried by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her government's handling of Brexit negotiations, if their reaction to a video posted by the British ambassador is anything to go by.
Following May's speech on Brexit in Florence British envoy Edward Llewelyn posted a video on the embassy’s Facebook page in an attempt to update Brits in France on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and to stress there was good news to report back on the progress being made.
“I wanted to give you an update on citizen rights which I know affects so many Brits living and working in France,” said Llewellyn.
“We’ve made some good progress in recent weeks, for example on health. British citizens living here in France will be able to use their European Health Insurance cards, the so-called EHIC card, when you travel to other member states after our departure,” the ambassador said.
The envoy added that there had been advances made on the issue of frontier workers, but didn’t spell out what exactly and he stressed that the pensions of UK citizens living in France would indeed be uprated and not frozen as they are for expats living in some countries.
But judging by the scores of comments left on the video, Brits in France were far from comforted as they continue to live in limbo after the EU referendum.
“Words are easy Mr Ambassador, it is actions that count and so far we have seen nothing,” wrote Mike Harlow from Limousin.
“British citizens living in France and elsewhere in the 27 are petrified about their futures. The intransigence of the UK government is making people ill, we are being treated like bargaining chips, and at the moment our future is unclear until 2019.”
Another increasingly concerned British citizen Ann Bone added: “We need reassurances that we will be able to continue to reside here in France with guaranteed and permanent arrangements for our pension and health care rights which are our current entitlement.”
Jan Painter who lives in the Correze department added: “We have been living in a state of anxiety for 15 months ...... many people are struggling with their health and finances and we are still no nearer to knowing what our fate is going to be and for how much longer this waiting is going to last.
“We have been treated appallingly by the British government and wish this nightmare to stop, as our representative you should be showing support for all UK Nationals living in France and ensuring that ALL our rights are protected.”
In a speech June Theresa May did offer some guarantees on pensions and health cover to British nationals in the EU but months on and there is still no agreement with the EU on citizens rights.
- Why Brexit is a matter of life or death for some Brits in France
- UK makes pensions and health pledges for British expats post Brexit
- Brits in France: The fight against Brexit starts now
While many accepted the British ambassador is simply the government's messenger rather than the cause of their anxiety, some accused him of failing to grasp the main concern British citizens have regarding their right to health cover after Brexit.
For them, being able to use the EHIC insurance car is of secondary importance, what really matters to those retired in France is whether the reciprocal healthcare agreements under the European S1 scheme will still cover Brits in France once the UK leaves the EU.
“I am sure that your message was meant to be reassuring, but it is not. Quite the reverse,” wrote Paul Kendall. “For if your apparent misunderstanding of our concerns is indicative of a wider lack of awareness amongst the UK's negotiators, we should be truly frightened.
“The lack of detail and the mention of an almost irrelevant EHIC card betrays just the sort of lack of understanding we fear.”
Janet Tarr echoed those concerns.
“Sadly, Mr Ambassador, however well intentioned your message is it does nothing to reassure those of us who are in a state of uncertainty at a time when we could be enjoying a calm and settled lifestyle,” she wrote.
“The EHIC is of minor importance compared with our concerns about our continuing rights to health cover.”
The ambassador said he was holding meetings across France to hear the concerns of British citizens. However many commenters complained there was a lack of information regarding these meetings.
The ambassador will have to hope his government can make really make some solid progress to ensure the rights of Brits living in France are guaranteed after Brexit otherwise he will likely face the wrath of many of those citizens at his next meeting.