Ask an expert: Should I let Brexit affect my plans to buy property in France?

In this week's 'Ask an Expert' feature French paperwork guru Tracy Leonetti looks at whether you should let the uncertainty around Brexit affect your plans to buy property in France.

Ask an expert: Should I let Brexit affect my plans to buy property in France?
Photo: Depositphotos
Brexit and the effects of Brexit are on almost everyone’s lips at the moment and that’s hardly surprising as we approach March 29th with so many questions left unanswered.   
What deal, if any will be finalised? Will the current ‘implementation period’ of 21 months be respected or pushed out a few months as British Prime Minister Theresa May implied recently? How can you ensure your paperwork is in order before the changes start to happen? 
My last article on this subject was more on the paperwork practicalities of those wanting to apply for citizenship, but what about buying a property in France? How will this be affected and should people still look for their dream home in France when the implications are still so uncertain? 
How Brexit is affecting people and their plans to move to France (and namely invest in property) is a subject that fascinates me and one I discuss with every single one of my relocation customers. The answer is nearly always the same. 

Seven things to know before you buy that house in France

Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the key hesitations after the Brexit vote, starting with the cost of buying a property. 
This one has actually turned into a reality due to the volatile exchange rate, with the cost of the purchase price going up. 
Also the fact that those who were having pensions transferred lost almost 20 percent on the exchange rate, so for those who had a certain budget either to buy a home or live on in France, plans had to be revisited. 
The easiest solution of course would be to use a currency specialist and lock in the best rate whilst looking for your dream home.   
Will local taxes on properties be affected after Brexit? This is another concern and the answer to this is no. 
The local tenants' tax and the owners' tax remain unchanged for non-residents whether you are an EU or non-EU citizen.
Of course the key questions on paperwork in general, namely healthcare, are always in the forefront before moving to another country. This generates quite a lot of stress as France is renowned for its bureaucracy, but everyone’s situation is different and there is always a solution.
You have to make it your mission to find the right solution for you.
Ten things to think about when buying property in France
After the shockwaves of the Brexit vote subsided (and this took quite a bit of time), many people started to realise that they couldn’t wait for the UK government to let them know what to do and didn’t really trust the information they were getting. 
Taking control of their own destiny despite the obstacles is what makes a dream worthwhile. 
Their plans are often to be able to ‘get in’ before the obstacles became bigger. I have consultations with clients every week who have moved their plans forward, sometimes by years! 
The overriding fact that comes out is that everyone finds their key reason to move to France that greatly overrides the problems and uncertainties of Brexit. 
These reasons vary from the climate, the lifestyle, the beauty and history of France to its romantic language and food. 
Every region has its selling points and the property market (according to my property experts) is looking better and better. 
Whatever the reason, people are taking their destiny into their own hands and continuing on their path,  Brexit or no Brexit.
Tracy Leonetti is the head of Leonetti Business Services. You can visit her website

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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.”