Brexit day: Britons in France information

Blue Europe flag with man chipping off a yellow star
Banksy's take on Brexit on the approach to Dover harbour

The UK is to leave the EU at midnight French time this Friday January 31, Brexit day –  here we answer some questions which readers may be asking.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will tonight be voted on by the MEPs in Brussels in what is the main remaining formality required for the UK to leave on Friday night. It is not expected at this late stage that the MEPs will vote against it.

The vote comes at 18:00 tonight, preceded by a debate from 16.15.

You will be able to watch the proceedings live at this link. 

It means that from Saturday morning Britons in France will no longer be considered to be EU citizens. 

However nothing in terms of practical rights and procedures will change overnight for Britons in France.

Do Britons in France have to do anything immediately to secure their rights?

No, the transition period starts on Saturday and during this time everything will continue as usual for Britons in France in the short-term, with the main exception being that they are unable to put themselves forward for election as local councillors in March’s elections this year (or to vote in them). This means that there is no immediate urgency to take any steps.

It is possible that the transition period will be extended by one or two years, however at present the UK government rules this out and has written the December 31, 2020 date into domestic law.

An extension would require a joint UK/EU decision by the end of June this year.

Will we need a carte de séjour?

Yes, in the longer-term Britons living in France will need cartes de séjour – it will be obligatory.

For those who are settled in France before the end of the transition period this will be a new special kind of card, securing the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. The cards will be free of charge.

This aims to allow people as far as possible to ‘continue their lives as before’ though rights campaigners say it is imperfect as certain rights are left out, such as continuing free movement to live and work in different countries around the EU outside France. Such remaining matters could still be negotiated during the transition period.

When will we know more about the card application procedures?

The French government has told Connexion they expect to have further information on the procedures imminently, however it may not be possible to apply for one of the new cards for some weeks or even months.

The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) says people would have until six months after the end of the transition period at least to apply for a card.

You will need to apply for a new card even if you already have a carte de séjour as an EU citizen, however for those holding the séjour permanent cards as EU citizens the process should be a simple swap.

It is thought the application process will be mainly online.

What about applications which have been made to prefectures for an EU citizen's carte and which are still being processed?

If your EU citizen card has not been issued before Brexit day the prefecture will not be able to issue one afterwards. However it is possible they may retain the paperwork for issue of a WA card. The Interior Ministry plans to release more information about card applications later this week and this point may be included then.

Is it worth putting in an application still on the French government’s new carte de séjour site?

No, this was put in place as part of ‘no-deal’ contingency planning in case the UK had left without any Withdrawal Agreement, however this is not now going to be required.

That site is for a range of ordinary ‘third-country citizen’ cards, that will not apply to Britons benefiting from the WA.

It is not known if any use will be made of the applications some people had already made via that site, for example to convert them into applications for the new card.

Will my healthcare in France continue?

Yes nothing is expected to change for Britons covered by the WA. You should be able to continue to access your healthcare as before, for example via your Carte Vitale and, if you are a UK state pensioner, your S1 form (or British-issued Ehic when travelling abroad in the EU).

Will my UK state pension be uprated next year?

Yes, if you are covered by the WA then your pension will always be uprated, as now.

Will my British passport still be valid to go to France? Which passport queue will I use?

Yes, UK passports will retain the same validity as now during the transition period. After the transition period British passports would need to have at least six months’ validity left to run on them for entry into the Schengen area, including France.

Britons will still be able to use ‘EU’ passport queues on travelling into EU countries like France during the transition period.

After this they will have to use non-EU gates and it is unlikely to make any difference whether the actual passport still says ‘European Union’ on it or not (we have asked the European Commission to confirm this point).

Some recently-issued British passports have had this wording on them and some have not. From mid-2020 it is planned that all new British passports will lack this wording and will be blue.

Will I need a visa?

Britons will not need any visas for visiting or moving to France during the transition period.

It is expected that a mutual arrangement to waive visas for short-term travel will be agreed between the EU and UK before the end of the transition period, however Britons moving to live in France after the period are expected to need visas.

Britons visiting France after the transition period will eventually be subject to the EU’s new Etias visa-waiver scheme, involving a short online application and a €7 fee, for permission to come into the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Once obtained the permission will be valid for three years.

It is expected to be in force by the end of next year.

Will I still be able to use my Ehic card in France when visiting my French second home?

Yes, British Ehics will remain valid in the transition period. Validity after that has not yet been negotiated. Private health insurance may be required in later years.

Can I still use a British pet passport to bring my pet to France on holiday?

Yes, British pet passports will remain valid during the transition period. They may not be valid after that, requiring you to prepare for trips to France with your pet further in advance, however this remains to be negotiated.

Can I still drive on a British driving licence?

Yes, British driving licences remain valid in France during the transition period. Rules on their continuing validity in the longer-term have not been clarified yet.

France decided that they would remain valid indefinitely (as long as the licence itself is in its validity period) in the no-deal scenario, and may replicate this now for the ‘deal’ scenario.

The UK has said that people could still use French or other EU licences in the UK.

Will I still be able to buy property in France?

Yes, you can still buy property in France however if you later sell it after the transition period then you will need to pay a higher rate of capital gains tax on the sale (this relates to the social charge element) and also pay a small percentage of the sale price for the services of a middleman called a ‘représentant fiscal’.

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