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France gears up for no-deal Brexit

Britons in France will have a year to obtain new residency cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit, France has announced.

23 January 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Making use of special powers conferred by a no-deal Brexit law, the government is to make five ordonnances (laws passed by order to speed up the process) in coming weeks. One will be on Britons’ residency rights.

Another aims to “ensure the continuity of certain financial activities, in particular relating to insurance, after the loss of the UK’s financial passport”.

Connexion asked the prime minister’s office if this includes ensuring Britons can continue to receive private pension and insurance payments in France from UK-based providers. It said this will be clarified later.

Details remain to be clarified on the residency plan too but an outline says that – dependent on the same being granted for French people in the UK – Britons would retain the same rights as now for one year.

During that year they would have to obtain a residency permit to stay. The UK says, in a no-deal, EU citizens will have until the end of 2020 to apply for its ‘settled status’ scheme.

This confers most of the same rights as under the negotiated EU/UK deal, and during that time they retain broadly the same rights as now.

Britons would have the right to apply either for a carte de résident, if they have lived in France for more than five years at the time of Brexit, or otherwise one of the existing cartes de séjour for non-EU citizens who have lived in France for less than five years (but with simplified conditions compared to the usual requirements).

A resident’s card is usually either renewable after 10 years or permanent. The other cards are mostly renewable annually, but holders may apply for a resident’s card, notably on conditions of language skills and earning levels, after five years.

An Interior Ministry source said it is expected that the resident’s card would be an ‘ad hoc’ one for Britons, probably based on the rights in the deal, but including loss of the rights for those who leave France for more than five years.

It is not clear that there would be any special rights for people arriving in France after Brexit day in the event of no-deal.

It is expected that people who already have EU citizen cartes could exchange them for new cards, as the EU ones provide proof of the length of their legal residency in France.

The order is also expected to preserve social security rights of Britons in France before Brexit, allow them to stay in regulated professions such as notaires, avocats and accountants, and remain as fonctionnaires (civil servants, including teachers and nurses etc).

Another order relates to establishing strict border controls, including spending €50million making facilities for lorry checks, and recruiting and training 580 people to do customs and veterinary checks.

The ministry source said there are plans for specific offices for card applications in departments where lots of Britons live and prefects have been invited to do this. There should also be information meetings at prefectures and sous-prefectures to complement national communication about Brexit rules.

The official online source for information is brexit.gouv.fr .

Until then, it is still worth putting in applications for EU citizen’s cards, the source said.

In the case of no-deal, pending applications would become invalid “for IT reasons”.

People would have to put in new ones but would not have to submit new supporting documents and could ask officials to use ones from the other dossier.

An official from the prime minister’s office said: “Our preferred option is still the deal negotiated, which is precise about citizens’ rights and would leave us two transitional years to prepare. But if there’s no deal, the new laws would apply, so Britons living in France have a legal residency status.”

He added: “The president and Europe minister have said several times that the deal was the best one on the table, so it is hard to imagine it will be renegotiated.”

The guarantees would only apply if there is reciprocity for the French in the UK – “but it’s not in our interest to penalise British people who’ve been living in France a long time”.

He added that time is running out and they are preparing for all eventualities.

“Extra personnel are being recruited, laws are being put in place and speeded up, as it’s more likely there will be no deal.

“The prime minister is asking ministries to get ready – the Interior Ministry for paperwork or Agri­culture for food regulations – and prefectures in concerned regions so as to respond to demand. We’re trying to get everyone to gear up.”

Ordonnances must be ratified by parliament or they lapse.

In view of a possible no-deal, it remains important to apply for a carte de séjour or at least prepare documents for one.

It is advisable to change a UK driving licence for a French one. In a no-deal, there will be extra paperwork to do this and non-EU drivers must swap to a French licence within a year. Delays are already reported.

If you plan to travel with pets, speak to your vet. The EU pet passport will be invalid in the case of no-deal so extra papers would be needed.

For more on preparing, see our helpguide Brexit and Britons in France, available via our website (or call 06 40 55 71 63), and our web Brexit section.

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