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Brexit: What rights could be in jeopardy?

AS WE state on June's front page, we know the rights that Britons in France will have if the referendum result is to remain - the status quo. However, should Britain decide to leave, the future of many everyday rights is uncertain due to the fact that they would need to be renegotiated. The changes may be minimal or significant. So what rights would be affected? Here we list some of the key advantages that Britons currently enjoy due to the UK being part of the EU.


EU citizenship means Britons do not
need visas or cartes de séjour but have automatic
residence rights if they are working or self-supporting.
(This also applies to nationals of EEA countries
like Norway, as well as Switzerland which is in
the single market but not in the EU or EEA).

After five years EU expats are considered to have
permanent residence rights, which may be formalised
by applying for a carte de séjour EU –
séjour permanent.
This is not the case for non-Europeans, who
must apply for fixed-term cartes de séjour and
periodically apply for renewal.
Britons wanting to stay in – or come to – France
might need to fulfil conditions such as proving a
required skill or sufficient resources so as not to
be a burden on France’s social security system.
However, even with sufficient means it can currently
be hard for non-EU retirees to gain the
right to become French residents.
Expat rights campaigner Brian Cave estimates
EU rules have over the years allowed almost half
a million British pensioners to retire to EU states
whereas the number in 1973 was “almost too low
to measure”.
As for workers, ordinary applicants typically
apply for individual permits (a spouse would
apply separately) and can only bring the rest of
their family after five years, by applying for
regroupement familial. Those in high-level jobs
may benefit from special arrangements.
Britons unable to meet new residence criteria or
who do not want the uncertainty of applying for
permits may benefit from a transitional period in
which they could, if they wished, sell and go back
to the UK.


Many people have taken advantage of EU
freedom of movement and work rules to find
jobs, start businesses or work as tradespeople.
Non-EU foreigners wanting to work need permission
and must have a document to prove this.
This can be a visa or residence permit of a kind
explicitly allowing work or a separate work permit.
This may apply whether the person wants to be
employed or to set up in self-employment.
The future right to work of those already here
and working would be addressed by negotiations.
Those who come afterwards might be subject to
new rules. Self-employed people and managers
(dirigeants de société) would under general law
also require a carte de commerçant, unless an alternative
is negotiated.

State pensions:

Expats’ UK state pensions could
be frozen unless otherwise agreed. This is the case
with the pensions of expats in most non-EU countries
such as Australi a or Canada.
Without the UK being part of the ‘EU pension’
system a British person’s pension for a period
worked in France could be worth less because they
would not be able to factor in a period spent
working in the UK (and thus avoid penalties for
not having worked the standard amount of time).
Britons with less than 10 years of UK contributions
may receive nothing from the UK even if
they have worked elsewhere in the EU.

UK benefits:

Benefits such as Personal
Independence Payment or Employment and
Support Allowance may no longer be ‘exportable’
to France. Jobseekers moving to France may not
be able to continue claiming UK unemployment
benefit for up to three months as they may now.
French benefits: Britons may have less access to
French benefits because they would not benefit
from EU principles aimed at ensuring that EU
citizens using their free movement rights are not
discriminated against.
For example, ASPA income support for pensioners
is only available to non-EU nationals if they
have had a worker’s residence permit for 10 years
or more or have been paying into a French pension
for 10 years or more.
RSA income support for working age people (or
the prime d’activité payment for workers on modest
incomes) is only available after having a worker’s
residence permit for five years.


Britain may no longer pay for a UK
pensioner’s healthcare via S1 forms. This could
mean they would have to take out private policies
(whose cost could rise steeply and which
often exclude certain pre-existing conditions) –
see article below. It could also mean tougher
checks on pensioners’ means to make sure they
are not a burden to France before letting them
join the French system on a basis of paying 8%
of their income above (at current rates) €9,611.
British pensioners may no longer be able to
obtain free NHS healthcare on visits back to the
UK and French residents may not be able to
benefit from using an EHIC on visits to the UK,
so would need good travel insurance because
they may face charges for many types of care
(GP visits and A&E services would remain free).
The EU directive that permits French residents
to travel to the UK for many healthcare
procedures and be reimbursed by Cpam with no
prior authorisation may no longer apply. In general
it may be difficult to obtain authorisation
for care in the UK, as the EU S2 form authorisation
system may not apply.

Court judgements:

Mutual recognition of child
custody decisions (currently enforced across the
EU), would be brought into question, as would
current access to the European Small Claims
Procedure which allows claimants to chase up to
€2,000 from individuals in other EU countries.
Citizenship: Britons would officially be known as
étrangers (foreigners) rather than Européens as
now (unless the UK remained part of the
European Economic Area - EEA) and they would
have to change their EU passports.

Air travel:

Britons may not be able to use EU
gates at customs and passport checks.
People taking flights between the UK and
France may no longer be protected by EU rules
on compensation for delays, cancellations and

overbooking, which are for flights leaving an EU
airport or ones arriving in the EU which are
operated by an EU company.


It may no longer be possible for
French residents to do a year in the UK under the
Erasmus scheme (however the EEA and Turkey
and Macedonia belong to it, and certain ‘partner’
countries participate under certain conditions).
Students wanting to do full courses at UK universities
might be charged higher international rates.
Students from France doing courses in the UK
may no longer qualify for a UK student loan.
(Young people from expat families might qualify
if they can show close links to the UK, such as a
pattern of regular visits to relatives).
Elections: Britons may not be able to vote (or
stand) in mairie elections and could not vote for a
French MEP.
Susan Collard of the University of Sussex estimates
there are 830 Britons on local councils in France –
who would probably have to step down.


UK licences may only be valid for a year
before having to be exchanged and formalities for
importing British cars may be more costly and complex.
French disabled parking badges may no
longer be accepted in the UK.
Essential third-party car insurance bought in an
EU country is valid in all others; this might no
longer apply between Britain and France.
Purchases: The purchase of goods for personal use
across borders in the EU has no restrictions. Post-
Brexit, customs duty and VAT may be payable on
imports from the UK above a certain value.


Britain might no longer be bound by the
EU directive that will require banks to allow residents
of other EU states to open new accounts.

Tax deductions:

Donations to British charities
might no longer be tax deductible.


The 40% allowance for EU-based shares
may no longer apply to UK shares.


It may be harder for UK ones to be
accepted, as mutual recognition rules would not
apply. Access to some professions may be limited.
Communications: Post between the UK and
France might cost more and using a French mobile
in the UK could cost more as EU limits on roaming
charges may no longer apply.


David Cameron has stressed the EU’s role
in 70 years of peace and stability. He says it helps
countries cooperate over threats such as Daesh, a
‘newly-belligerent Russia’, or the migration crisis.

Other considerations:

  • The Bank of England’s governor warned the pound
    may drop ‘sharply’ if there is a Brexit. This would
    lower the spending power of anyone with income –
    including a British old age state pension – in France.
  • The deal whereby Britain carries out border checks
    in Calais and the French help prevent illegal migrants
    going to the UK with 1,000 riot police, might end.
    Policing the tunnel and ports might fall to ferry companies
    and Eurotunnel to prevent migrants boarding,
    which may significantly put up ticket prices.

List compiled with input from hon. avocat Gerard
Barron, expat campaigner Brian Cave, financial
advisor Robert Kent and British MP Sir Roger Gale.

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