The worries of being a Brit in France as a no-deal Brexit looms large

The idea that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal on citizens rights is only adding to the ongoing worry of British nationals living in France. Here some tell of the impact the increased uncertainty is having on their lives.

The worries of being a Brit in France as a no-deal Brexit looms large
Photo: Deposit PHotos

We are keen to hear your accounts of how the uncertainty around Brexit and the possibility of a no-deal or the loss of freedom of movement and other rights is impacting your life in France. 

It is terrible sitting here in limbo waiting to hear our fate, writes Leon Durbridge who lives with his wife in La Creuse department of central France.

What I find appalling about the way we expats are being treated is that we seem to be considered as traitors for leaving Britain and therefore our views and concerns are not to be taken into account. 
The conflicting statements concerning expats' future, coming from the mouths of different civil servants, members of the government and the opposition are just worrying and confusing.
We are retired, but what about those who have come over and set up businesses? They need to have a business plan for perhaps the next five years. They must be feeling sick with worry as they can't plan anything.
Our main concern is the pensions and medical aspects. Both of us have on going medical problems that require regular check ups and medication. If Britain withdraws the payments they make to France toward our treatment, we could not afford the medicines or treatment. 
The other point is the regular pension rises, we need them.
Access to our British bank account is another worry. We have small private pensions that are paid into our British bank. If we can't access that account and transfer money when needed, then we will be in financial difficulties. Our British pension is paid straight into our French bank. Will that still happen after Brexit?

If we had to return to Britain, in the case of all the above happening, then the British government would not only have to pay the full amount of our medical costs, but also have to pay rent and rate subsidies to us, as we certainly could not afford to buy a house in Britain and being in our mid seventies would not get a mortgage.

We would obviously have to sell our house in France, but given the current market, goodness knows how long that would take.
What the British Government has to accept is that we have paid in full all taxes and social charges during our working lives and are therefore entitled to the benefits.

Where we choose to retire and live our lives is none of their business. We came to France on the understanding that as EU citizens we could live here without penalties being applied by Britain. BRITAIN HAS NO RIGHT TO CHANGE THAT!
Simon Barnes who lives near Paris with his French wife writes: We’ve been left in uncertainly for over two years now.
Many of us, myself incuded, are feeling very anxious about our futures. One pro-Brexit British newspaper (and I use the term “newspaper” in its loosest possible sense) even suggested recently that this anxiety might be a mental disorder.
It’s the loss of freedom of movement that angers me the most.
Freedom of movement allows EU citizens to live, work, study and retire in any EU country. Like many people, I have based decades of study, career and life decisions on this freedom.
It is priceless, yet now the government is taking it away, with no consideration for the effect this will have on people’s lives and livelihoods.
Those of us with personal or professional connections to other EU countries, in particular, are being hung out to dry. Out of sight, out of mind. Someone else’s problem. When the government talks of ending free movement, they mean our own.
We are being encouraged to apply for residence permits, yet those will only safeguard our rights in our host countries. What about those of us who need to travel to other EU countries or (like me) provide cross-border services to customers?

For many of us, surviving “Brexit” means having our own escape routes. I know many EU citizens who are leaving the UK, because they no longer feel welcome there; and many Britons who are leaving now, while they still can, in order to secure their movement rights.

And what about those who have been planning to move to France for years?

Paul Roberts a British citizen with plans to move to France writes: Why has this UK government decided, seemingly autonomously, to destroy the entire foundations of its own stability and that of millions of its own people?

My wife and I have spent the past twelve years in preparation for (imminent) retirement to France. We purchased a small medieval property (using a French mortgage) adopted a French/Catalan way of life, made many friends and plans. Then came Brexit.

Due to work in the UK we have not been ‘resident’ in France throughout the 12 years; our house being regarded as our holiday home. This, seemingly, precludes us from applying for French citizenship or residency status despite having paid for domestic services (electricity, water, etc.) and taxes (d'habitation, fonciere, etc.) throughout.

It could be that we become persona-non-grata in France. We may be considered illegal immigrants. We may be thrown out.

Our only desire is to retire, to live in and die, in our chosen European location; something that was, until now, perfectly possible. Our plans are now, at best, precarious and quite possibly ruined.

Neither of us wish to remain in whatever remains of the UK.

How is the uncertainty around Brexit and the prospect of a no deal impacting your life in France? We are keen to publish your accounts and thoughts. Please email Ben McPartland at [email protected].

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.