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BREXIT

OPINION: This is the last chance to show Brits in the EU matter more than Cheddar cheese

While many Britons living throughout the EU may have felt relief that a cliff-edge exit from Europe was avoided this week, most lament the fact the "indecision and uncertainty" will be prolonged unless rights are ring-fenced, say the groups British in Europe and Brexpats Hear Our Voice in these letters.

OPINION: This is the last chance to show Brits in the EU matter more than Cheddar cheese
Photo: Axel Scheffler for British in Europe

British in Europe:



Citizens’ rights organisations British in Europe and the3million, who represent the five million people most directly affected by Brexit, demand an immediate end to crippling legal uncertainty in the wake of an agreed extension to the Brexit process until 31 October.
 
While the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens’ rights has been gathering dust for over a year all 28 EU member states are busy making their own, widely differing preparations on how to treat the five million people who have crossed the Channel to live in another EU country.
 
These five million people demand an urgent explanation as to why EEA EFTA  and Swiss citizens already have security about their rights, but they do not. They also plead with the EU to not waste the hard work that went into agreeing citizens’ rights and uphold them even in case of no deal.

Jane Golding, Co-Chair of British in Europe – which represents 1.3mn Britishcitizens living on the continent – said: “This may be the last chance before the European elections to show the five million people who used their free movement rights in good faith that they matter more than fish carcasses or Cheddar cheese.

“As almost a third of only 17 million Europeans who currently use their free movement rights, what message does it send for the future if the EU fails to protect their rights in this unprecedented situation? 

“We need a binding commitment now from both sides that rescuing the hard won citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal agreement will be the contingency, instead of the current contingency plans providing for 28 separate unilateral solutions without international treaty protection.”

It is unlikely that any post-no-deal-Brexit agreement on citizens' rights would have the same scope and rights as the Citizens' Rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement  – and it could take years to negotiate.
 
The current EU no-deal contingency plans for British citizens in the EU amount to little more than calling on Member States to ‘be generous’. This approach also leaves the 3,6 million EU citizens in the UK at the mercy of the UK government, which has already announced that their rights will be cut in a no-deal scenario.

Without the protection of an international treaty, future Britishgovernments will be free to reduce these rights even further. In addition, the campaign groups argue that dealing with areas like healthcare, pensions and social security will require a coordinated approach at EU-UK level. 

For more information on British in Europe CLICK HERE.

Brexpats Hear our Voice:

We fully endorse British in Europe and the3million’s demand today for “an immediate end to the crippling legal uncertainty in the wake of an agreed extension to… …31 October 2019”.

Business aside, there needs to be more awareness of how this affects people. Every week has been bringing us new worries since our lives were turned upside down, astonishingly close to three years ago.

This week of no deal?, short extension?, long extension?… has been one of the worst. How much more of hanging over the abyss, living with uncertainty do they think people can take? 

Our members are in countries that span from Spain to Finland, France to Bulgaria, Ireland to Estonia, Greece to the Netherlands… Stereotypes abound but we are more likely to gravitate to where the work is than to the bowling club or the beach, as almost 80% of UKinEU are of working age or younger.

Our members are from all backgrounds, perhaps employed or self-employed; families with young children or carers for older relatives; economically comfortable or economically challenged… in fact, all manner of situations, rather like “real people”! Many of us care very much about the UK and our family and loved ones there.

But the referendum set us and all EUinUK citizens apart. We are particularly concerned for the most vulnerable amongst us. By definition, that must include many of the 3 million+ EU citizens for whom it is very hard to be impervious to Theresa May’s ever hostile environment.

For many of our members the extension offers relief we are still in the EU, and hope but for others it is an even darker place or feelings are mixed.

Michael, Germany: “The cause of Remain is still alive…” Sue, France: “More time for more indecision and uncertainty…” Caomhin, Spain: “I like it because we haven’t left… I don’t like it because of the insecurity…” Mike, Italy: “Nothing has changed…” Christine, Spain: “Another six months of living on a knife’s edge…” Neal, Romania: “Underwhelmed…” Arthur, Hungary: “I am quite upbeat about it”. Lesley, France: “Good news and bad news all at the same time”. Linda, Belgium: “… I’m really sick of this (and I mean sick in all senses of the word – ask my doctor!)…” Chris, France: “My fear is that much of the damage to our country has already been done…”

No deal has been excused from the table this week so our battle for ring-fencing must go on. Or even better, revoke article 50 forthwith; it was after all, a highly dubious referendum.

For more information on Brexpats Hear Our Voice CLICK HERE.

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VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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