'Election result brings certainty' for Britons

The Tory election win brings certainty for Britons in France says a leading member of community groups representing them.

13 December 2019
By Oliver Rowland

The vice chairman of the British Community Committee of France (BCC), Christopher Chantrey, said with Brexit now almost certain on January 31, Britons know they can rely on the protections negotiated as part of the Withdrawal Agreement under former prime minister Theresa May.

“If it had been a hung parliament the uncertainty would have continued and the January deadline would have changed. At least we know where we are now,” he said.

“OK, ‘Remain’ really disappears and Leave was a stronger presence among UK voters than many of us though, which has led to what is really an extraordinary result that no one would have predicted yesterday – both in the size of the Johnson victory and in the size of the decline of Labour and the Lib Dems.”

He said the BCC and fellow member groups of the British in Europe coalition will now press the French government to find out which carte de séjour British residents will need and whether the website that was set up for ‘no-deal’ cards will now be converted for applications for a new kind of ‘Brexit deal’ card.

The French ‘no-deal’ legislation will also fall away, he said, but parts of it not covered by the Brexit deal, such as the right for Britons to remain in fonctionnaire jobs, will now have to be replicated in new laws.

However Boris Johnson’s wish to conclude the ‘future relationship’ negotiations with the EU in 11 months leaves little time to discuss such matters as possible replacement rules for the Ehic or S1 for future Britons moving to France or visiting second homes, after the end of the transition period, and who are not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Chantrey said he is holding out the hope that Mr Johnson’s large majority could enable him to ignore hard right elements in his party and accept EEA membership, a status that would protect the status quo for expatriates, now and in the future. He said he will lobby for this in his capacity as a committee member of the Paris branch of Conservatives Abroad.

“It may be pie-in-the-sky, but perhaps now Brexit is happening on January 31, Johnson may realise there is some mileage in the EEA option, for the sake of the trading relationship.

“And it could be done by the end of 2020, as he wants, because it’s an off-the-shelf deal.

“Healthcare rights and pension aggregation and so on would all be included in it.

“It would give us more than we have in the Withdrawal Agreement, although at least under the agreement we know that we are not risking the no-deal scenario.”

The new five-year mandate for the Conservatives and large majority also means the issue of votes for life for expatriates must now resolved once and for all, Mr Chantrey said.

“This is the government that can get it done and I’ve written to say that,” he said.

Furthermore, in anticipation that the SNP’s victory in Scotland may well bring another independence referendum, he said he will argue that it should be based on the UK general election register.

If Scotland leaves there is a risk that Northern Ireland would also leave, he said. Even Wales "will be agitating".

“The last Scottish referendum was based on the local election registers, which are normally to do with voting on dustbins and dog dirt – it’s got to instead include everyone who could be impacted by it and that’s all Britons if the risk is that the UK ceases to exist.

“We could be back to just England and Wales, as it was before the union of the [Scottish and English] crowns.”

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No time for overall deal if transition period is 11 months

Would expat rights be lost if trade talks fail?

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