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LATEST: Your questions answered on a no-deal Brexit

With a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, we asked our readers what their major concerns were for people living in France.

LATEST: Your questions answered on a no-deal Brexit
All photos: AFP

The questions we got can broadly be divided into four categories; obtaining French residency, obtaining French citizenship, rights for healthcare and pensions after Brexit and the rules for people who do not permanently live or work in France.

The information outlined below applies only to a Brexit where Britain leaves with no deal.

READ ALSO: What are the main differences between Brexit with a deal and no-deal Brexit for people living in France?

French residency

This is the major concern for people living full time in France – will they be permitted to stay in the country after Brexit? It is also an area where the advice has changed slightly over the past three years.

Although not everything is clear, France published its own no-deal contingency back in April which laid out what British people would need to do if they want to stay here.

There are essentially three categories – people who already have a carte de séjour permenant (a 10-year card) people who do not have a carte de séjour permenant but have lived here for more than five years, people who do not have the permenant (or long term) carte de séjour and who have been here less than five years.

For people who already have the permanent 10-year card it's easy – you will just need to swap your card for a new one after Brexit. No new application needs to be made.

Anyone else will have to begin the application process for a new card. The full details are here, but the key points are that people will need to decide whether they are applying as an employee, self-employed, a family member of someone who already has the right to residency or the 'inactive' category for people who are not working or are retired.

Every category has slightly different paperwork requirements, but the main points are that you must have been legally resident in France on Brexit day and will need to provide proof that you can support yourself financially.

If your application is successful you will get a permanent carte de séjour.

People who have been in France for less than five years will have to go through the same process of applying, with a couple of extra documents required for some categories, but will be given a short-term carte de séjour for one to four years, depending on the category. This can then be renewed and eventually exchanged for the carte de séjour permenant once you have been in France for five years.

Any type of new carte de séjour application carries a fee of €100, and you will also have to pay a certified translator for any documents that need translating into French. You also need to get your application in within six months of Brexit day.

The above covers people who are already resident in France on Brexit day. For advice on whether you can move to France after Brexit, click here.

The citizens' rights group Remain in France Together has detailed information on residency requirements on its website here.

French citizenship

Many long-term residents of France have also been considering French citizenship, which if successful will obviously take away any worries about your right to remain in the country.

It's not a simple process though.

There are two main routes to citizenship – through residency or through marriage.

If you are applying through residency you need to have been living in France for five continuous years (or two years if you have completed a higher education course in France) and speak French to B1 level.

Many people think that getting citizenship is much easier if you're married to a French person, but that's not necessarily the case.

READ ALSO: No, a quickie marriage in France won't save you from Brexit 

You have to have been married for four years before you can apply, although you do not need to be living in France, and you still need to go through the application process and interview.

More details on the application process can be found here but it involves providing a lot of paperwork (of course) and generally takes between 12 and 18 months.

There is an interview (in French) in which you have to prove that you have a good knowledge of France, its culture and its values and show that you are applying because of a genuine commitment to France, not just to cut down on the paperwork.

You are also eligible for citizenship if you have served in the French Foreign Legion for five years, or less if you have been seriously wounded, but after looking at what the training process involves I'm not sure we would recommend that route.

It's worth noting here that if you already have dual citizenship with another EU country, for example Ireland, then you can simply carry on exercising your Freedom of Movement using that nationality and do not need to apply for either a carte de séjour or French citizenship.

READ ALSO: 10 reasons why you should consider becoming French

Healthcare and pensions

A major concern for a lot of readers of The Local, this is the most tricky area, because some big questions here are still unanswered.

Healthcare first – people who are working in France have the right to apply for a carte vitale, which gives you access to the state health insurance scheme. Full details here, but basically it's relatively simple to apply for, it's not means tested and it means that whatever medical treatment you have in France, the government will refund you a portion (usually the majority) of the cost. You can also apply for this now and do not need to wait for Brexit.

It's also wise to have a mutuelle – top-up private insurance – and if you are an employee your company must cover at least half of the cost of this.

Pensioners who are living in France are generally covered by the S1 scheme and there is some good news on this as France has guaranteed that even in the case of a no-deal Brexit your healthcare rights will stay the same for up to two years, while Britain and France try to come to a bilateral agreement.

If there is no agreement reached after two years then the status will be re-examined, but this is one area where the UK does seem to want to reach a generous reciprocal agreement with countries like France and Spain, where many British pensioners live.

The European health card (what used to be called the E111) will cease to work on Brexit day, since the UK will no longer be part of the EU, so you must arrange alternative cover beforehand.

Pensions are also complicated.

At the moment the greatest problem that pensioners in France face is the fall in the value of the pound, which has seen a big drop in the income of anyone who is paid a pension in pounds but must pay their bills in euros.

A big worry for people already getting their pensions has been the issue of uprating – the annual increase in line with inflation, average earnings or 2.5 percent, whichever is highest. In a no-deal scenario the government has said it will continue to uprate only until December 31st 2020, after that it will be a case of striking reciprocal agreements with all 27 EU countries.

For people who have not yet started to claim pensions there are also complications. At the moment if you have worked in more than one EU country you simply claim in the country where you live when you retire, and your total contributions in all EU countries are added together and put into your pension pot. This arrangement would continue under the Withdrawal Agreement but not if the UK exits without a deal.

In a no-deal Brexit this would again mean the UK negotiating reciprocal arrangements with all 27 EU countries. 

What about people who don't live or work permanently in France?

For people who are not resident in France but do enjoy spending time here (usually second home owners) there will be restrictions of the amount of time they can be here after Brexit. 

This is another thing that we still don't know, and unfortunately in the chaos that is widely expected to follow a no-deal Brexit, it is unlikely to be at the top of anyone's to-do list. However it seems likely that France will follow the 90-day rule that is currently in place for the majority of other third country nationals.

Anyone wishing to stay for longer than 90 days out of every 180 would then need to apply for a visa. As much information as we currently have can be found here.

Some other questions included the rules on driving licences. Here there is some good news, as the French government, after being deluged with applications, announced in April that the majority of people will be able to keep driving in France on their UK licence.

Pet passports – of course passport controls do not only apply to humans and the current Pet Passport scheme that most people use is an EU one, meaning it will not be valid after Brexit. If the UK leaves without a deal it will become an 'unlisted' country as far as pet travel is concerned, at least initially.

This means that while it is still possible to take animals between the EU and the UK, it's going to get a lot more complicated. The list of steps you will need to take is on the UK government website here, but in short you will need to make sure your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.

Animals will also need an animal health certificate which needs to be issued by a vet no more than 10 days before the date of travel, so people making the journey regularly will need a new certificate every time.

The first time you make the arrangements the process will take four months, so anyone planning a trip for Christmas, for example, needs to start now.

And speaking of passports, British humans will need to have at least six months left on their passport for travel to and from the EU, so if your passport is nearing its expiry date you will need to renew it immediately.

And of course after Brexit you will have to join the 'Non EU' passport queue.

Member comments

  1. And any sensible person reading the above clearly sees what a total disaster Brexit is for everyone but the wealthy minority running this extreme right wing Tory government. Like many living in the EU I am worried sick, especially as my finances have taken such a massive cut since the totally unnecessary referendum that was won by liars telling massive lies. Just serving is getting harder now, when before I was enjoying a lovely comfortable lifestyle in the south of France. Now I’m stuck at home most of the time, only going out when absolutely necessary as gazole costs are a major part of the expenses of living in the country! Brexit is the worst self harm any nation has done to itself.

  2. Brexit is not the convincing victory of the Brit electorate (ie. those entitled to vote) which voted just over 37% for it. The oft quoted 52-and-a-bit% majority relates just to voters, not to the electorate. Is this not an argument in favour of a re-running of the referendum requiring a majority from the electorate to achieve a result, not first past the post just from voters? If no majority, no result, and the original status quo prevails.

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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.”