‘Will France still let me be a gendarme?’ Brits in France asked to share personal Brexit stories

The stories of how the lives of British citizens in France have been impacted by Brexit are to feature in a new book In Limbo Too. One of the youngest testimonies comes from a 12-year-old British boy who lives in France. You can also send in your own.

'Will France still let me be a gendarme?' Brits in France asked to share personal Brexit stories
The project is being led by the campaign group Brexpats – Hear Our Voice.
British citizens living in France are invited to share their stories of how their lives have been impacted by Brexit for the book which will be called In Limbo Too.
Jan Glover from Brexpats – Hear Our Voice told The Local: “The book is a collaboration between two Facebook groups, Our Brexit Testimonies and Brexpats – Hear Our Voice.  
Our Brexit Testimonies published a book last June entitled  'In Limbo', a book of testimonies from EU27 Citizens living in the UK and how life feels since the UK 2016 Referendum.
Glover, who has lived in the Charente, western France, for 10 years said: “This new book, 'In Limbo Too' is a sequel to give voice to British Citizens living in the EU27 and how their lives are effected and how they are feeling.
“We would like to have about 150 testimonies and hope to collect them all before the end of March, sooner would be better.
“There is no limit on how long or short a story is or how it is written, just written from the heart is best, also for any poets, poems would also be most welcome.”

One of the stories that will feature in the book is from her 12-year-old son Adam.

This is what he had to say about how Brexit was causing him concern.

My name is Adam, I am 12 yrs old and live in France with my Mum, Dad and Nana. I have half sisters and brother who live in England – they are much older than me.

I go to college and will be starting in 5eme in September.  I started school when we moved to France and I was just 2 3/4. I learnt French very quickly. My best friend, Romain, is French. In fact nearly all my friends are French. 

We live on a farm and have pigs, ducks, chickens, a sheep and a cat and 2 dogs (they are my pets).

At the moment, when I grow up I want to be a Gendarme. I am not sure they will let me after Brexit, but this is all I have ever wanted to do.  I know I could go back to the UK when I am old enough to be a Policeman, but that would mean leaving my Mum and Dad.  And I do not think the UK will understand my exam certificates. What if I want to do something that would mean me going to another country in the EU for education or to work?  I also want to get the best exams and education I can here in France. After Brexit will France still let me go to school here?

I worry about what is going to happen to my Mum and Dad, they do not speak French as good as me and I know they would never pass an exam in French so could never get French Nationality.  What is going to happen when my brother and sisters want to visit me for Christmas, also my Aunty comes every holiday and spends time with my Nana who is now getting quite old – she could never manage having to move back to the UK if we had to go back, it would kill her.

If you would like to share your story you can email [email protected] and we will pass it on.

READ ALSO: How the Brexit vote has changed the lives of Britons in France

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”