There's nothing like a shock referendum result to help focus the mind on where you want to live.
Following the vote to leave the EU in June 2016 many Brits in the UK are hurriedly packing their bags and making plans to move to France and elsewhere in Europe.
Some have already upped sticks and left knowing that once official Brexit Day is declared the possibility to move and work abroad will get a lot more complicated.
The deal struck early on Friday morning between London and Brussels confirmed their reasoning.
A joint document published after the talks said Brits already living in the EU and those who move before Brexit Day in March 2019 will be able to stay, although they might have to apply for residency or “settled status” as it is being referred to.
However no such rights to live and work in mainland Europe will be guaranteed to those who want to make the move after this cut-off date.
So many who have always dreamed of living in France have decided to act now while they still have the chance.
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David Perry, 28, moved to Paris from London in July this year and says the UK’s vote to leave the EU was a catalyst in his decision.
He had considered living in continental Europe at some point, but the uncertainty following the Brexit vote added urgency to his decision. “I thought if I didn't go now, it might be more difficult in the future,” he told The Local.
Perry was working on a live radio show in London on the night of the referendum and said he still remembers “the sinking feeling as the leave votes came in.”
He now works for a digital start-up.
“I'm glad to have the chance to live here now whilst it was easy for me to pack up and move here with no restraints. Younger people may unfortunately look at what I've been able to do with envy,” he said.
He is not alone. A number of young professionals who had made the move from London to Paris since the Brexit vote.
Until now, the more popular move has been in the opposite direction: an estimated 200,000 French people in London, compared to less than 10,000 Brits in the city of Paris.
London has long had a reputation as a more cosmopolitan city than Paris, with greater employment and business opportunities and a more international outlook.
But times perhaps are changing.
Figures released by Britain's Office for national Statistics this month reveal that net migration to the UK in the last year has taken a record plunge, with 19% fewer EU migrants coming to live in Britain and 28,000 more EU citizens leaving the UK year-on- year.
A French start up company told The Local recently that Brexit and the Macron effect has prompted them to move from London to Paris and some French citizens told The Local recently how the UK had become “toxic” and the Brexit vote had persuaded them to move back to France. Brits are heading the same way for similar reasons.
Emma Brooke, 29, moved to Paris in July 2017 and works as a writer and communications manager for a small French company.
“I'd always wanted to move here in the back of my mind, but Brexit moved it from a pipe dream to something I wanted to do imminently,” she told The Local. “I wanted to take advantage of as many opportunities to move and integrate easily while I had the chance.”
“I also prefer the way of life here,” she added. “There's a much better work-life balance, and society still holds intellectualism, art and culture in high esteem – something Britain is rapidly losing.”
Paris has enjoyed cultural renaissance in the last few years, with a varied food and drink scene developing in the north and east of the city as well as proliferation of new fashion and design boutiques and workshops.
Tech and media companies have moved into the second arrondissement (nicknamed “Silicon Sentier”) and the world’s largest start-up incubator, Station F, also opened on the banks of the Seine this summer.
”For years, I was always proud to call myself a Brit, as to the outside world the UK was seen as a place of tolerance…but the Brexit vote made me realise that there is, in fact, a lot of intolerance at home,” 27 year-old Peter Stewart told The Local.
Stewart made the move from London to France following the Brexit vote and now works as an editor and translator for a government agency.
“I had been thinking about moving abroad for some time, but it was the vote to leave the European Union that swayed it for me,” he said.
“I didn't want to be a part of a society that was looking inwards instead of outwards, so I decided the best thing to do was for me to leave,” he said.
But it is not only young creative types that are making the move.
Retired lecturer Peter bought a holiday home near the Canal du Midi ten years ago with his wife and since the Brexit vote they have moved their permanently.
“We had always said that we would spend a lot more time in France after my wife retired in 2016, but the Brexit vote, and the subsequent venom heaped upon some (foreign) friends of ours in the immediate aftermath made us to decide that we couldn't live in the UK any longer,” he told The Local. “Our decision to move to France was a direct result of Brexit.”
He expressed dismay at the rise in hate speech and open prejudice that followed the vote to leave the EU.
“Britain is no longer the country I was born into in 1952. Some people say they are 'ashamed to be British', I'm not, but that's because my version of British isn't the hate-fuelled, racist, xenophobic country that Britain seems to have become. It's the country of tolerance and give and take, that grew out of the 1960s and 1970s, and I really, really miss it now that it has gone.”
A 35 year-old security consultant we spoke to, who preferred to remain anonymous, was in the process of buying a house in France when the vote to leave took place, driving down the value of sterling.
The professional, who now lives in Essonne, to the south of Paris, with her husband, mother and daughter told The Local: “We did not expect the result and naively thought that we would be able to buy our house here and be in a good position. We lost money with the collapse in the pound but still wanted to push ahead because we didn’t want to raise our daughter as anything other than ‘European’ and in a European environment.”
The family previously lived in the Home Counties, near London where they felt that there was “too much anti- Europe sentiment and anti-globalisation perspectives”. “As [people from] mixed race/nationality backgrounds, my husband and I felt that now was the time to move,” she told The Local.
“I’m happy to be on this side of the fence, apprehensive about the future for all, but so happy to see our child learn in an environment where the unity is praised not questioned.”
As the March 2019 cut-off point approaches, these Brits are unlikely to be the last to make the move while they still can. Removal companies could be in for a busy year.
by Hannah Meltzer