No-deal Brexit now ‘likely’ outcome says French minister

We look at impacts for second home owners and British residents in France

14 October 2020
By Liv Rowland

France’s foreign affairs minister says no-deal is now ‘likely’ as Brexit talks enter their last days.

Speaking in parliament yesterday Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “As things stand now, the hypothesis of a no-deal is a very credible hypothesis; unfortunately a likely one today.”

He added: “We know the British are skillful at tactics, but even if they are formidable tacticians, today the time is over for tactics. There’s no time for games, the deadline is coming up.”

Mr Le Drian said that they now had from mid-October to mid-November to arrive at a deal or not – a late deadline which will cut fine the time needed for drafting, translation and ratification by the European Council and Parliament.

The EU had previously said it would like a treaty to be ready by the end of October at the latest to allow time for the final steps.

Mr Le Drian refuted the idea that the EU summit to be held tomorrow and Friday in Brussels was the cut-off point.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier also implied in comments yesterday that there could be several more weeks to go.

According to The Guardian, diplomatic sources reported him telling EU ministers that there was little immediate prospect of ‘tunnel’ talks, a final intensive thrust to find compromises on remaining aspects.

Mr Barnier reportedly said the talks were still in a ‘difficult phase’, with a ‘more constructive tone’, but still without enough agreement on certain vital areas.

Fishing rights is among the most contentious, with France taking a hard-line on it – Europe Minister Clément Beaune reiterated again yesterday that it would remain “very firm”.

UK waters are very extensive and France fears that if EU fishermen have much restricted access there will be more competition in France’s own waters.

What is more many fish breed in French zones but end up as adult fish in the British ones. A quarter of the French catch comes from the UK areas.

What does it mean for Britons if there is no deal?

Impacts of no-deal would vary depending on your status, whether an existing resident of France, a would-be future resident (from January 1, 2021) or a second home owner or other visitor.

Others affected would include British firms wanting to 'post' workers for short contracts in France, for example for the ski season, an EU arrangement that would continue only if there is a deal including this. Firms on both sides of the Channel that trade with the other country would also face additional costs and paperwork if there is no deal.

Existing residents

This group would probably be least affected because the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) deal is not affected by whether or not the UK and EU sign a ‘future relationship’ treaty, the object of the current negotiations.

This is already an international treaty and covers many existing rights of Britons in France.

One impact of no-deal however would be no deal on financial services, meaning that some UK banks are likely to go ahead with decisions to cancel the UK accounts of Britons in France by the end of 2020, due to the extra complication banks would face in continuing to serve customers based in France.

Any drop in the pound resulting from a possible economic hit to the UK from a no-deal as trade with the EU becomes more difficult, would affect all those with incomes from the UK.

Britons moving from January 1, 2021

The WA does not protect this group and they will be treated as ordinary non-EU citizens from next year.

The future relationship negotiations allow for the chance for the parties to agree, for example, that future expatriates’ state pensions should continue to be uprated, that disability benefits should still be exportable and that pensioners should maintain the right to healthcare in the new country paid for by the home state.

In reality, the UK has expressed willingness to maintain pension uprating but has not asked for the other elements.

No-deal however may mean pensions of future expatriates being frozen when they move to France.

Second home owners

Possibly the biggest issue for this group is that without a future relationship deal including social security coordination elements, the Ehic health card system will end.

This means visitors face having to purchase full private health cover to avoid risks of high bills if they were to require care. What is more many such policies exclude existing conditions, posing a problem for anyone in poor health who envisages making lengthy stays in France.

Other areas also remain to be finalised...

Aside from the main ‘future relationship’ deal, many other areas still lack clarity at this late stage, because the UK and EU have yet to finalise rules.

Areas lacking clarity include, for example:

  • Whether the UK will participate in the Erasmus+ university exchange scheme after this year
                         
  • What exact rules will be in place with regard to pet travel; for example will EU countries recognise a British (non-EU) pet passport?
                             
  • Will people travelling in either direction across the Channel require an international driving licence?
                                 
  • What rules will apply to the operating rights of UK-based airlines and on safety conditions in the Channel Tunnel?

Previous articles

Early November is Brexit deal deadline - French minister

Does UK's October 15 Brexit deadline still stand?

Lack of safety rules plan may halt Channel trains

Find out more about preparing for Brexit in our updated Brexit and Britons in France Help Guide

In our comprehensive help guide, you'll find information on what Brexit means for British residents, second homeowners and visitors in France - now and after December 31, 2020. Recently updated following on from the delay of the new residence card website for Britons (set to launch in October), the 64-page guide outlines what you need to do as Britain leaves the EU. We answer reader questions on whether second homeowners can spend more than 90 days in France after Brexit, would you be better covered for healthcare by becoming French, future guidance on pet vaccinations and more. Buy the guide here.

More questions from the Brexit helpguide

Can I still move freely in Schengen Zone?

Will French blue badges still be valid in UK?

Will inheritance law be affected?

Will the Erasmus study scheme continue for Britons?

Will I need a new passport?

Will Britons need visas to visit France?

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