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Brits in France - Take action now in case of no deal

This autumn is crunch time for Brexit and the risk of a no-deal with its associated uncertainty and insecurity for Britons living in France has never been greater.

28 September 2018

On October 18-19 there will be an EU summit which has long been seen as the deadline for a deal but this is now unlikely to be met. If leaders think it useful there may be an extra summit in mid-November to allow extra time.

With talk of a snap UK general election and increasing calls for another referendum it is important to check that you are ready to vote, if eligible. You are, however, still banned from voting if you have lived outside of the UK for 15 years or more.

The campaign group British in Europe (BiE) has hit out at the UK Prime Minister in an open letter, following her unsuccessful visit to an informal EU summit.

The letter reads: “We heard we are now at an impasse in the negotiations with a very real threat of no-deal.

“What we did not hear was one single word about the future of 1.2 million EU nationals in the EU27.

“You appear willing to take the UK out of the EU with a no deal and with no thought for your own nationals. This was... disgraceful and unacceptable.”

BiE will be joining a march on October 20 in London for a ‘People’s Vote’ and is also lobbying in West­minster on November 5, with an ‘e-lobby’ for those unable to attend. It urges people to write to their MPs demanding that, as a minimum, the rights agreed for expats so far are ‘ring-fenced’ (see britishineurope.org).

Campaigner Gina Miller meanwhile set up an information site (endthechaos.co.uk) after it emerged many people are still ignorant about Brexit including believing that a ‘no deal’ means staying in the EU.

The UK has released a further batch of ‘no deal’ planning papers but nothing clarifying important matters for expatriates such as pensioners’ healthcare and uprating of state pensions. Connexion previously identified that France and the UK had a social security agreement including uprating before the UK entered the EEC – so should uprating cease it would be a regression to 1954.

French ministries have also been told to prepare contingency plans for a ‘no deal’ scenario and draft legislation is expected soon. Nothing official has been announced publicly but inside sources told Con­nexion that the Interior Ministry is keen to keep the status quo for Britons already established in France and who have cartes de séjour or who can provide the same evidence of legal, stable residency.

If this is confirmed, there will still need to be clarity as to card requirements and Britons’ precise status. There could be every­day difficulties if they cannot easily prove their rights to local officials such as at Caf offices or when applying for jobs.

Ordinary ‘third country nationals’ have lesser rights in some matters than EU citizens, tougher criteria for residency cards and must have visas and/or work permits.

A British embassy spokeswoman said the government “does not want or expect” a ‘no-deal’ and France “also wants to reach a deal by the end of the year”.

The embassy is working with the French to clarify how the deal should be implemented but it is likely that after Brexit there will be a new form of carte de séjour.

In the meantime the embassy notes the French advise obtaining a carte now under current rules. It recommends signing up for email updates at gov.uk/guidance/living-in-france and gov.uk/world/brexit-ireland (for its next outreach meetings about Brexit see tinyurl.com/yalrqfv9).

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