No-deal Brexit: What France’s contingency plan means for Brits in France

The French government activated its contingency plans on Thursday for a no-deal Brexit. Here's what it means for Brits living in France.

No-deal Brexit: What France's contingency plan means for Brits in France
Image: Deposit photos
As the UK reels from the consequences of this week's massive rejection in Parliament of the British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan, France has announced it is pressing ahead with its plan to prepare for the event of a no deal.
On Thursday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it was activating the draft bill it published in October in the event that Britain leaves the EU without a deal.
The French parliament is expected to complete the adoption of this bill later on in the day, allowing the government to take decisions by decree if necessary following a no-deal Brexit.
Much of the legislation focuses on how British nationals living in France will be impacted by a no-deal and what the government in Paris will need to do to guarantee their status on this side of the Channel.
Here's a closer look at what a no-deal would mean for Brits living in France and what the French government intends to do, via the passing of urgent decrees, to avoid issues after Brexit Day on March 29th.
  • The plan depends on the ongoing negotiations between London and Brussels

The legislation acknowledges that the most important Brexit matter right now is the ongoing talks between the UK and the EU and their outcome.

At this moment “it's not possible to anticipate” what that outcome will be, but the plan stresses that the negotiations between London and Brussels for an agreement take precedent over the French government's contingency plans for a no-deal.

  • Guarantees depend on what Britain does

The French government states clearly on a number of occasions that all the guarantees for the rights of Britons in France mentioned in the bill depend on the UK adopting reciprocal measures first.

The UK government has already guaranteed the rights of EU citizens in the UK even if there's no deal but nothing is written down in law. Given that British politics seems fairly unstable right now with the possibility of elections all those guarantees given by the British PM could soon stand for nothing.

Until the rights of French nationals are guaranteed in law in the UK then France could in theory scrap its own contingency plan to guarantee the rights of Britons here.

  • Brits could be given better treatment than other third country nationals (if the French are)

This should be good news for Brits living in France.

The text of the bill reads that decrees could be taken that provide measures which grant British citizens in France “more favourable treatment” than people from other third countries (in other words non-EU member states).

BUT that would only happen if the British also give French nationals in the UK the equivalent status.

READ ALSO: Preparing for a no-deal Brexit – The personal matters you need to take care of

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  • Residency permits will be needed or you'll be 'irregular'

The draft bill states that: “In the event of withdrawal from the United Kingdom without an agreement, British nationals who enjoy the right of free movement and free establishment throughout the European Union, as well as members of their family, will become third country nationals and will therefore in principle be subject to common law, that is to say to the requirement to present a visa to enter French territory and to have a residency permit to justify staying here.”

France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau has stated the government's intention to pass a decree to guarantee Brits already in France can stay in the event of a no-deal.

“We must make sure that in the absence of a deal on March 30th, 2019, Britons living in France do not find themselves suddenly with irregular (immigration) status,” said Loiseau.

Britons in France have been encouraged by France's Interior Ministry to apply their Carte de Séjour residency permit as soon as possible even if there is a deal and the draft bill states clearly that “in the case of an exit without agreement, the British wishing to enter France to stay for more than three months would be subject to this requirement.”

If Britain leaves without a deal then British nationals and their families who didn't have the residency permits would have an 'irregular' status, the draft bill states.

If there is a deal Brits in France who have successfully applied for a Carte de Sejour will likely be able to swap it for whatever kind of residency permit that is brought in post-Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Key questions answered about Carte de Séjour residency permits

  • Work permits 

The French government estimates some 52 percent of the 150 Brits living in France are employed so decrees would need to be taken to allow them to continue in their jobs.

That's because the draft legislation states that “in the event of withdrawal without agreement, British nationals with employment contracts under French law with an employer in France may be required to obtain a permit equivalent to a work permit in France, as provided for in the regulations on the employment of foreigners in the Code of Employment.”

The text continues: “Without the possession of such a document, the employer could be held criminally liable for the employment of foreigners.”

  • Those in certain professions would be particularly affected

The text states that a no-deal Brexit could mean that those exercising certain professions such as doctors or pharmacists may have problems due to the law that states those exercising these professions must be from an EU member state, here France would need to pass a decree to allow them to continue.

  • British nationals working for French public service

A decree would need to be passed to allow any British nationals working as civil servants in France to continue their roles due to a law that states those employed in the French civil service must have French nationality or that of another EU member state.

There are an estimated 5,000 Britons working for the French state, many employed in education. 

  • Health and benefits

Legislation would be needed to allow Brits to access benefits, says the draft legislation which estimates that 3,000 Brits claim basic job seekers allowance in France known as RSA.

“In the event of withdrawal from the United Kingdom without agreement…the coordination of social security systems will no longer apply.”

That means: 

“The withdrawal will therefore have consequences for the opening and determination of the social rights of British nationals and their dependents, as well as for the determination of their eligibility for social minimum.”

The text says that legislative changes will be needed and may “also provide for the contribution of British nationals and their dependents to certain benefits, the assumption of which will no longer be the subject of financial compensation by British social schemes.”

The impact of a no-deal Brexit would be that the “the United Kingdom will no longer be obliged to compensate France for the health care expenses of British residents who receive a retirement pension paid in France by a British scheme.”

  • More measures will be taken

There's probably more to come because the draft legislation states that the French government “is also empowered to take any other measure necessary to deal with the situation of British nationals residing in France.”




Member comments

  1. The health benefits and pensions are the main cause of concern for us retirees.
    Quote.`The UK Will no longer be obliged to compensate France for our health care`. I would suggest that legally they are.
    We have all paid our contributions in full during our working lives in Britain and to refuse to pay even the 70% they do at the moment would be robbery by any other name.
    Are Theresa May and her government that thick they don’t understand that 100s of 1000s of us would have to return and claim our full benefit rights, across the board? Therefore costing the UK tax payer far more than if we stayed out of the country.

  2. At the age of 80 (78 in my husband’s case) does anyone have any thoughts on how we can deal with this “robbery”? We couldn’t afford 7,000.00€ annually for health care, yet we have no intention of returning to the UK (despite having to pay tax over there, as a former headteacher, my husband is obliged to pay income tax in the UK). There is neither logic nor compassion and is a total infringement of human rights.

  3. So much seems unclear. I have my carte vitale and mutuelle under my French wife fortunately as I have had a serious operation in the excellent French health system and a gp and ongoing specialist health care. As Bobby above I am an ex teacher and pay my tax in the uk. I also receive my pension into our uk bank account. Our mayor and the prefecture in Troyes tell me I won’t need a carte de sejours as I have been living here for 11 years and my wife is French. Is this true as it seems to go against all the advice I am receiving from yourselves uk government and apparently now French government

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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.