Don't panic as January 31 passes, as nothing will change in the short term – that’s the message
France’s Interior Ministry has given Connexion for Britons in France facing Brexit.
It said France plans to release information on post-Brexit procedures for British residents, including how to apply for a new form of obligatory carte de séjour, just before Brexit day.
It will not be possible to apply for a card for some weeks, perhaps months, the ministry said.
A senior ministry official said: “Our aim will be to reassure the British that there is really absolutely no urgency to obtain a card. We will have time and it’s going to be OK.”
A new type of card is needed to differentiate between those Britons who were resident before the end of the transition period – and maintain rights from the deal – and those who came after.
February 1 is the start of a transition period lasting to December 31, 2020, during which time the aim is to maintain the status quo.
The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) means the citizens’ rights part of the Brexit negotiations are protected in an international treaty.
This treaty will hold even if the “future relationship” talks result in a “no deal” which many predict will happen due to the short timeframe.
The British Embassy says, for example, that those benefiting will see no change to the way they access healthcare via S1s, their Cartes Vitales or UK pension payments.
People will continue to travel to France and around the EU on a UK passport during the transition period as long as it is valid for the length of stay. Ehics can still be used by visitors.
An embassy source said all Britons in France – unless they also have another EU nationality – will need the new residency permit which will be free of charge to obtain.
This includes those who obtained a carte de séjour before Brexit, have applied for a second nationality, or are married or Pacsed to a French person or who applied for a “no deal” card via the website France set up in late 2019.
It is not known if the site will be converted or abandoned – nor what is planned for applications made through it or for applications still being processed at prefectures.
A mainly online procedure is expected and the WA says the process should be “smooth, transparent and simple” without “unnecessary administrative burdens”. It should be a simple swap if you have a ‘permanent stay’ EU citizen’s card.
Residents will have at least until the end of June 2021 to apply and the embassy source said France may take time to ensure everything is right.
It is unclear how Britons will prove their WA rights during 2021 or later without a card. We suggest not to leave applying to the last minute.
British in Europe (BiE) campaigners have written to EU negotiator Michel Barnier expressing concern over uncertainties about how the WA will be implemented.
They said they hope income levels, for example, will not prove a bar for some and recalled that both the EU and UK ministers had expressed the aim that those settled in other EU states before Brexit should continue their lives as before.
BiE hopes that remaining issues such as“continuing free movement” for Britons covered by the WA to live and work around the EU will be resolved now and not lumped in with future EU immigration rights of Britons who live in the UK.
EU negotiators previously said this could be considered in the future relationship talks. If agreed it could also give Britons in France a lifelong right to return, even if, for example for family reasons, they are away for more than the five-years referred to in the WA.
BiE will continue lobbying and will provide inform-ation, such as WA clarifications via francerights.org, britishineurope.org and social media groups. It is fundraising to cover expenses via its main site.
Christopher Chantrey, vice-chairman of BiE group British Community Committee of France, said: “For a long time, everyone was anxious about no-deal preparations, but we’ve got to forget that now and go back to what it says in the WA. Nothing changes for us immediately, except that we are no longer EU citizens and lose the vote. Our social and health care and pensions continue; there is no great threat hanging over us.”
The long-term future for new Britons moving to France or visiting holiday homes after the transition will, however, inevitably be “more complicated,” he said.
Kalba Meadows, of France Rights, said the last three years were a “rollercoaster” and Britons in France had often felt invisible. “While none of us would have wished to be in this situation today, we do - finally - have a degree of certainty. We know the majority of our rights will be protected, including the all-important healthcare and pension uprating, and they’ll be protected for our lifetimes while we live in France.”
It is thought the vast majority of Britons will secure their rights under the deal, but there are concerns that some ‘living under the radar’, undocumented, may struggle, depending on what the application requires. A small number of Britons were refused the existing cartes available for EU citizens, on income grounds.
- SOLVIT, which helps EU citizens living in another EU state who have rights problems, will not be available to Britons after the transition period. Your Europe Advice, which gives rights information but not active individual support, may remain open to those affected by Brexit.