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BREXIT

Preparing for a no-deal Brexit: The personal matters you should take care of

The increasing possibility of a no-deal Brexit is causing much angst among British nationals living in France. Kalba Meadows from the campaign group Remain in France Together (RIFT) runs through some personal matters you might want to take care of before Brexit Day.

Preparing for a no-deal Brexit: The personal matters you should take care of
Photo: Deposit photos

1. Think about moving money

  • If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to France now. Sterling may drop suddenly in the case of a no deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU. 

2. Try to have a financial backstop

  • If at all possible, try and make sure you have access to enough cash to see you through two or three months, especially if your income comes from the UK and is transferred monthly. 

3. Consider your personal pension

  • If you have a personal pension in the UK (this doesn’t apply to state or public service/occupational pensions) and have not yet retired, think about getting advice about how to deal with this and cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with the rights of UK insurers/financial services providers to operate in the EU without having a formal presence there after Brexit and these could cause problems e.g. with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK.  Write to your insurer/private pension company in the UK to ask them what plans they have put in place for post-Brexit scenarios. 

READ ALSO:

How to prepare for no-deal Brexit in France: Taxes, health and your carte de séjour

4. Top up your medication

 

  • If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the French health service and you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on 29 March 2019 – if the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos. Making sure that you have the permitted 3 months of long-term medication would mean that you'd avoid having to pay full whack for your meds while the situation was resolved.

5. Look at ways you could maximise your income and minimise your expenses

  • This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no deal exit. Can you survive if sterling hits parity? Goes below parity? What's your bottom line? What can you do to turn your income into euro income?

  • Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and at ways you could create additional income.

  • Get any potentially expensive dental or optical work done now, in case you have to reduce the cover on your mutuelle (if you have one).

6. If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK

  • Start thinking about changing your client demographic. If there is a no deal Brexit people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you may need to find new clients if you're to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in French, if you haven't already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract French and EU27 customers. 

  • Put contingency plans in place now to deal with potential issues with VAT, excise, billing, professional insurance cover, etc.

 

 

 

READ ALSO: 'The ball's in your court': UK tells France to ease expat Brexit worries

UK minister in Paris says France must ease worries of British expats

7. Make sure that you're in France on 29 and 30 March 2019

  • This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU. If you can't be in France, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone.

8. Put some serious work into your French language

  • In a worst case scenario, we may be required to apply for a carte de résident that demands proof of language ability at A2 level. This wouldn't apply to anyone over 65 – but even if you are it's still a Good Plan to improve your French.

9. Think about, or rethink about, applying for French citizenship

  • When we carried out a survey on attitudes to citizenship a few months ago, a majority of respondents viewed applying for citizenship as a 'last resort'. For some, a no deal exit might be that last resort. French citizenship won't guarantee all the rights you currently hold as an EU citizen who has exercised treaty rights (mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for example) but it will guarantee you the right to reside and to work – and you'd continue to benefit from full free movement rights.

 

 

 

READ ALSO: Brits in France must start preparing for the worst

10. Marry a French citizen

  • Only joking. (Sort of). Actually, you might be better off marrying a non-French EU27 citizen, as EU rules on family members and reunification are more favourable than the national French immigration rules that would apply to a French citizen … 

11. Above all … don't panic!

  • This is about hoping (and working) for the best, while preparing for the worst. Whatever happens you won't be alone and will always find help and support from your fellow citizens.  If you need advice or support, think about joining our group Remain in France Together … it’s free and you’ll find 10,000 other people there in the same boat as you are.

If you missed the first part of this article, check out this page on the Remain in France Together website: https://www.remaininfrance.org/no-deal-checklist.html.

Kalba Meadows is citizens’ rights coordinator of the group Remain in France Together, and a member of the steering committee of British in Europe.

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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