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52 days until Brexit and Brits in France still have unanswered questions

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52 days until Brexit and Brits in France still have unanswered questions
Photo: The Local
16:52 CET+01:00
With just over 50 days until Brexit Day worried Britons in France are still bombarding their ambassador with questions, writes The Local's Evie Burrows-Taylor.
The event comes at a time of extreme uncertainty for many Britons in France, with Britain's departure from the EU looming and a no deal scenario, which once seemed far-fetched, looking increasingly likely. 
 
At the last outreach meeting in Paris back in December 2017 Ambassador Ed Llewellyn was subjected to angry recriminations by the Britons who attended who seemed to blame him personally for Brexit, with one woman accusing the embassy of having a "cavalier attitude" when it came to establishing the rights of expats in France
 
This time the embassy seemed to be taking the meeting very seriously, holding a media briefing beforehand with the British envoy, which it turns out, only The Local attended. 
 
Llewellyn described it as "a difficult time" for people and that he and his team were trying to offer "some reassurance" with the 42 events they have held over the past two years. 
 
These events, he said, will continue after Britain's planned departure from the EU on March 29th.
 
Llewellyn also stressed that he and his team want Britons in France to continue contacting them if they need help with Brexit matters in France. 
 
"The embassy can engage in situations with the French authorities if necessary and has already done so on several occasions," he said. 
 
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After the briefing it was time for the ambassador to head down into the 'gladiatorial pit' to face the crowd at the fully booked event, which was the third of its kind to take place in the French capital. 
 
But while it seemed tempers were likely to flare once again with tensions heightened as Brexit Day fast approaches, the atmosphere was somewhat more subdued than last time. 
 
The change in mood could be down to the fact that the embassy has been touring the country for nearly two years, reaching those who are set to be most directly affected by the UK's impending divorce from Europe. 
 
Also, it could be partly due to the very active role citizens' rights groups, such as Remain in France Together and British in Europe have played in fighting for the rights of Britons living in France and across Europe. 
 
These groups have lobbied and cajoled the British government in an effort to protect the rights Britons have been able to take for granted as citizens of an EU state. 
 
French parliament begins debating no-deal Brexit bill
Photo: AFP
 
Nevertheless, though the atmosphere may have been calmer at Monday night's event there were still around 250 people with very specific concerns about their personal situation that they still felt had not been remedied during the negotiations. 
 
Questions over rights to healthcare, onward freedom of movement and whether Britons who have been living in France for more than 15 years would have the right to vote in the case of a second EU referendum dominated the event, along with questions about how and when to get a French driving license. 
 
For example one woman was concerned that her cancer treatment would be postponed because she is not currently paying into the French tax system due to being unemployed -- she was assured it would not be.  
 
Another Briton in France asked whether the fees for his child's school would increase dramatically once they were no longer EU citizens (who receive more favourable rates) -- he was told they won't... yet. 
 
And still another wondered if his exams to qualify as a civil servant in France will still be relevant in the case of a no deal and whether he will be able to re-take them if he fails.  
 
Just 52 days until Britain's planned departure from the EU and there are still no concrete answers to this young man's questions, like those of many others raised on Monday night.
 
The embassy's events are clearly popular and welcomed by Britons in France but this does not detract from the fact that tens of thousands of Britons in France and across Europe, are still living in limbo. 
 
 
 
 
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Mike - 06 Feb 2019 21:20
I am not entirely sure how ex-pats can hold the UK embassy and the ambassador hostage to government policy (or the lack thereof). It is one thing to hold them to account for extant process, and to make them aware of the strength of feeling, but it is well beyond their purview to expect them to predict just what either the UK or the French government will do, given the compete lack of certainty over what, if anything, will have been agreed by 29 March.
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