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EU referendum: Readers’ letters

14 June 2016

The Connexion has been continuing to receive a full mailbag of reader emails and letters about the EU referendum, as June 23 approaches, including feedback from a former British ambassador who now lives in France. 

If you have views on the subject, whether you favour remaining in or leaving the EU, please continue to send your comments in to news@connexionfrance.com 

Here is an edited selection of those received recently. 

An awful lot of uninformed twaddle has been expressed in this vital debate and I would strongly urge the Leave camp and in particular any undecided waverers to read a recent article in The Economist entitled "The Delusion of Brexit" - it is balanced and sound. 

It is very telling to note that Boris Johnson's sister is a very active supporter of Remain and even more so that the Norwegian Prime Minister has advised that Britain should not follow in its footsteps - being an outsider with no say in the making of rules and regulations but bound by them regardless. 

We now see the true colour of what Britain will become following the deployment of the Farage anti-immigration poster and the appalling murder of Jo Cox. 

It is not a Brave New World which I want to have any part in. Come on Britain - open your eyes before it is too late! 

David O'Hagan 

The one thing – legally-speaking - is that expats are not allowed to vote in elections if out of England for 15 years or more, which includes me... BUT this is not an election but a referendum, so is there not a difference? 

It is a shame as they would have got many, many more votes from ALL expats if they had thought things through properly! 

David Stevenson 

When I hear that the UK wants to be in charge of its own laws, rather than follow Brussels diktats, I can't help thinking that the very British law regarding who can vote in this referendum, is rather a joke. 

As a Frenchman who married a lovely Yorkshire lass in 1988, followed her to London where two of our children were born, and worked in The City for many years paying the British taxman, I will not be allowed to express my views. So it is sadly not really a laughing matter at all. 

At the same time my Aussie, Kiwi or Canadian neighbours, who might be in London only on a short term basis and might not have paid as much tax, if any, will be casting their vote. The rationale escapes me. Some of them might even be back home overseas by the time the result is known. 

And here is another gem from the ‘Leave’ camp: ‘The UK will always be a great power, probably even greater on its own, and we will be able to get trading agreements just as good as Norway or Switzerland’.

Are these really great world political powers or our time, that we should want to model our future on them? 

Thierry Tantot 

No one is taking into account the real state of Europe. Having lived for 35 years in Spain and France I can see the great dream dissolving rapidly. 

The euro is getting more feeble as economies struggle. 

The idea that there is some noble, global, gloriously inclusive enterprise at its heart is fantasy. 

The motives behind the 'stay' philosophy are materialistic and benefit big business and oligarchs. 

The dilemma is resolved only by keeping Britain as one of the dwindling number of examples of good democracy and sound economy. 

Christopher Malden 

We love to relax in the garden of our French home, that my wife has created from nothing over the last 16 years. But now I cannot help but reflect that in a few years all this gentleness and peace in our retirement might crumble away. 

After careers serving British governments we both continue to pay UK taxes. Unfortunately, it has been decided that we shall not have the right to vote on a decision that could have devastating and deadly effects on our lives. 

The stark reality, which we avoid thinking about, is that she is on borrowed time now after being diagnosed with melanoma. There is, as yet, no cure, but innovative but costly drugs are keeping the tumours at bay, and keeping her alive. The future of reciprocal healthcare arrangements is unknown, and any thoughts expressed to the contrary are, to be polite, misplaced. 

I have read misguided comments that neither the French nor British governments would wish to alter established arrangements. Yet search as I might, I can find no evidence to support this naive view. 

Rather, there is evidence to suggest that both are prepared to remove established arrangements – for example Sarkozy's removal of early-retirees right to join the healthcare system eight years ago and the British government's removal of the Winter Fuel Payment. 

One way or the other, I fear post referendum fallout and I expect that the spotlight would be aimed at the cost of supporting expats in Europe. The prime minister would feel the need to heal internal wounds and appease Iain Duncan-Smith who was responsible for the removal of the WFP. 

I have despaired the puerile level of debate - vague rhetoric claiming loss of sovereignty and Britishness. What tosh! 

Did not Blair decide against the majority EU view to invade Iraq? I invite armchair critics to cite an instance where the British government has been stopped from taking action by the EU. 

What 'Britishness' have we lost? We still have the monarchy, The Royal British Legion, The Last Night of the Proms, the Cup Final, Wimbledon, Cricket, toast and marmite, crumpets and the BBC. What more do we want? 

C.O. 

I find it very frustrating when I read Brexiters’ take on migration. Do they really believe if the UK comes out of the EU that all those people at Calais will just go away? Of cause they won’t! So how will this problem be tackled?’ 

In my view nothing will change - the UK's boarders are leaking everywhere. How often are the beaches patrolled particularly at night? Probably hardly ever, because the resources are not there. 

And what will the French do about the refugees waiting to cross the channel? They will probably just let them leave France and let Dover, Folkstone and all other ferry ports in the UK have the problem instead. 

Chris Skuzanski 
Vayres, Gironde 

As some British expat voters are receiving their ballot papers for postal voting and others have opted for a proxy vote, some of us who have been disenfranchised will be wishing we could join in for this crucial decision that the referendum has put before us. 

I believe Bremain will better serve the future of Britain and is better for Britons who live in EU countries too. 

There a strong economic case for us to remain but it is also essential for our peace and security and our quality of life. Why undo decades of interaction and close contact with European partners? Solutions and opportunities are to be sought by working together. 

Retreating into isolation would cancel the goodwill and respect that Britain has gained in the EU and would not open any doors outside. 

We must beware too of certain extreme political figures and movements in and beyond Europe, many of which would rub their hands with glee to see a Brexit vote. 

We shouldn’t give them the chance to exploit with the risk of a return to the mutual hostility of a century ago. 

Even those of us who cannot vote could influence those living here who have that right. 

Nicholas Flay 

I think Nigel Lawson is being sparse with the truth or totally ignorant of the effects a Brexit would have on thousands of people in France and millions across the rest of the EU. 

He is well-off compared to many other expats, so the freezing of pensions, loss of health cover and so much more would pass him by with little detrimental effect. However it is a MAJOR issue for most of us, whether retired or working and with young families. 

He and other Leavers should not be so blasé about the situation of their constituents. I am still registered to vote in my last place of residence in the UK and I let my MP know what I think. 

An incensed reader 

Lord Lawson speaks to Connexion as if there were no problems for retirees if the UK voted to leave. 

This ignores the fact that the value of the pound will fall to parity with the euro very quickly and this will have two significant effects: 
- A large fall in pension income for those living in Euro Countries 
- The temptation to sell-up and return to the UK, where your euros will have greater house buying power. 

That will significantly increase the net migration figures as more UK citizens return home, not to mention that they, being older, will put greater strain on hospital services than the younger working immigrants who are presently in the UK and contributing to government income. 

Well-off Lords, and executives with huge pensions or salaries, should look at the damage their ill-founded comments may have. 

Nick Cole 
Portiragnes, Hérualt 

Lord Lawson should wake up! 

Of course expats will be made to pay for our exiting the EU. 

And God help those who, if we quit, suddenly wish to sell, as property values will fall quicker than you could ever imagine. Except perhaps those in the north of France as it is more than probable that companies will move their headquarters to the continent and employees will need to be housed. 

The Brexiters seem to think new agreements, trade or otherwise, can be renegotiated at the drop of a hat. Dream on! Does anyone remember Greenland? We have much, much more at stake. 

Here's to the future and to our children and grandchildrens' futures. 

Pamela Barron 

So, Nigel Lawson, himself an expat living in France, has stated that concerns about the future rights of EU expats following a Brexit are ‘nonsense’? “At most”, he says, “there might be a few more forms to fill in – but that’s not the end of the world. Expats’ rights are fully protected by the Vienna Treaty”. 

His utterance ignores both the fact that the majority of expert legal opinion states that the Vienna Treaty would give no protection of expat rights and, more tellingly, that France itself is not even a signatory. 

This is, unfortunately, typical of the ‘Brexit’ camp’s cavalier attitude to the truth and, if Boris’ ambitions end up costing me my right to live in France, my dearest hope, as the gendarmerie frogmarch me on to the ferry bound is that I shall find myself sitting next to Nigel Lawson. 

Paul Dinsdale 
Sainte Opportune, Normandy 

We also received a number of emails about the postal voting system (for more information on the practicalities of voting see this article). In some cases everything went smoothly… 

I received my postal vote form from Peterborough City council on May 25 and handed my completed form in its pre-paid envelope for Europe to our postwoman the following day. Just shows how efficient some local authorities are. 

Tony Hulson 
Bayet, Allier 

We live in the Ariège. I took my completed ballot to our local post office and they took it without issue – it is clearly marked ‘no stamp required’ in French. 

Mick Waters 

…and in others, not so much… 

The post office in Villebois-Lavalette insisted emphatically that the return envelopes must be stamped and I paid up accordingly. 

John Mallinson 

Another reader was confused by some wording on the original postal vote application forms, which was contrary to the Electoral Commission’s decision this year to ask elections offices to send out reply envelopes franked for international post. 

I note that some readers are not putting stamps on their postal vote envelopes when returning them. It is important to read the original form when you applied for a postal vote it clearly says “A Freepost envelope is included but if you are sending it from overseas you will need to pay the postage”. Please do not waste your vote by not stamping your envelope. 

Colin Chalke 
Auvergne 

- Mr Chalke is correct, the application forms, which are generic postal voting ones and not specific to people overseas, do say this. However the Electoral Commission and La Poste have confirmed this year that people who received envelopes franked for the International Business Reply Service (IBRS) may used these with no stamp (though certain expats did not receive the correct international envelopes). However La Poste has stated that putting stamps on them would not invalidate them. 

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