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Crucial December for Britons in France

Decision over progress in Brexit negotiations will have an effect on expat rights

This month is a crucial point in the Brexit negotiations as the European Council rules on whether ‘sufficient progress’ has been made for a second phase of talks to begin.

If the answer is no it will renew fears that the UK could leave with no deal, casting doubt over expats’ rights – and agreements reached so far – as neither side has accepted campaigners’ calls for rights to be ‘ring-fenced.’

It could mean expat Britons would be left in legal lim­bo dependent on the decisions of their individual countries of residence.

Kalba Meadows of RIFT, a campaign group for Britons in France, said too many expats have their “heads in the sand”, assuming “nothing will change for them, whether there’s a withdrawal agreement or not”.

“It’s worrying,” she said. “People should prepare no matter what happens and we are urging Britons in France to ‘get their house in order’ so they can prove they are well-established and legally-resident.

“For years as Europeans it has been so easy to arrive in France and take years to drift into the system,” she said, “but it’s more important than ever to check all is in order.”

She said this could include applying to enter the ‘Puma’ state health scheme if you are an early-retiree, making French tax declarations, improving your French and applying for a carte de séjour. The campaign group hopes to organise roadshows on these topics in 2018.

The current negotiations for an exit deal, due to take effect at the end of March 2019, are on expat rights, a financial settlement and arrangements for the Northern Ireland border.

Phase two would see discussion on trade and immigration rules and agreeing a transitional period after Britain’s exit to avoid ‘cliff-edge’ changes that could happen if there is insufficient time to fully prepare.
The British Ambassador to France says the UK is focussing on obtaining a deal and is confident of success.

How­ever, the ‘no deal’ risk is increasingly voiced, including by the leader of French business representatives Medef, Pierre Gattaz, who has urged firms to “consider the catastrophic scenario”, saying it poses risks – and opportunities – to French firms.

Ryanair says “there is a real, distinct possibility all flights between the UK and the EU27 will cease for a period from April 2019 onwards” if there is a ‘cliff edge’ exit with nothing replacing EU air sector rules.

Health charity the Nuffield Trust has said a ‘no deal’ “risks forcing tens of thousands of pensioners to return to an NHS which has no room for them”.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says sticking points on expat rights include family reunification for EU citizens, export of social security benefits and the role of the ECJ.

UK negotiator David Davis says the EU’s approach on future recognition of Britons’ qualifications is still “more narrow than we would like” and the UK is disappointed at the EU’s unwillingness to maintain local election votes.

No mention was made after the sixth round of Britons’ ‘onward move­ment’ rights in the EU, which has been in dispute.

The chairman of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, said campaigners also worry that if ‘sufficient progress’ is an­nounced, im­provement of the rights deal may halt. Campaigners consider that more work is needed to achieve the goal of expats being able to continue their lives as before. They also fear that some rights could be ‘bargained away’ in phase two if they are not 'ring-fenced' from the rest of the negotiation, as they have been asking for. However EU sources told Connexion they expect that more work on phase one issues would continue in parallel with discussion of ‘phase two’ ones.

See also: ‘Expats risk losing fundamental rights in the event of no deal', says Franco-British honorary avocat Gerard Barron

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