Worried about your rights after Brexit? About what happens if there is no deal? You are not alone.
Research tells us that uncertainty is more stressful than pain, and that knowing that something bad is going to happen is better than not knowing whether it is going to happen or not. The higher the level of uncertainty, the more stress we experience.
Nobody knows that better than we do, the British people living in France and the rest of the EU. Over 26 months after the referendum, we still don’t know what our futures hold for us and what rights we’ll keep, or lose. And we feel forgotten … there have been no real attempts by either the UK or the EU to reach out to us with information, advice or just simple reassurance or empathy.
That job has been left to voluntary groups like ours, Remain in France Together, which now has over 10,000 members all over France. We’re a founder member of the coalition British in Europe which represents and advocates for the 1.3 million British people who’ve settled in another EU country.
But 10,000, impressive though it sounds, is just the tip of the Brits in France iceberg: official figures put us at around 151,000, though in reality there are probably far more.
The trouble is that France is unique amongst EU27 countries in that it doesn’t require those from other EU countries to register for residence, or even report their presence. So nobody really knows who, or how many, or where, we are.
Nice though it’s been to avoid the administrative paperchase that our British friends in, say, Spain or Belgium have to go through when they arrive, to be frank it now leaves us a bit up the proverbial gum tree.
Because most of us here have no official evidence of the fact that we’re resident at all, or even that our rights here might be at risk in a no deal scenario.
Information is power
Remain in France Together has just launched a new outreach project, with the aim of reaching people who are out of the loop - not on social media, not in regular communication with other Brits, those who are vulnerable or perhaps just too fearful to think ahead to what may happen.
Our 10-strong citizens’ rights team knows that 'out there' are very many people who have their heads in the sand - out of lack of understanding, out of fear, or because they’re so stressed they’re simply paralysed, like a rabbit in a headlight.
We can’t provide certainty, because there isn’t any. But we can provide information, answer questions, and offer support. We can tell you what you can do to put yourself in the best position to face whatever the next months might bring.
We can help you make sure you have all your ducks in a row to apply for your carte de séjour, either now or after Brexit. We can give you the most up to date information on the state of play in the negotiations. And more.
If you’re out and about over the next few weeks, we hope you’ll stumble upon this leaflet pinned up in your local supermarket, bar or café. If you haven’t seen one near you, perhaps you’d be willing to help by printing some and putting them up – you can find out more and print them out from this page: https://www.remaininfrance.org/outreachproject.html.
You can find a wealth of information on other pages of our website; over the next few months we’ll be writing regularly for The Local too.
We warmly welcome new members – it’s free to join either our newsletter list or our Facebook group – while our website is there for anyone and everyone. We’ve got some tough times and some crucial months ahead, but together we are stronger.
Kalba Meadows is citizens’ rights coordinator of the group Remain in France Together, and a member of the steering committee of British in Europe.