How no-deal Brexit may hit life for Britons in France

From passports, pets, voting and driving licences to cartes de séjour, air travel, healthcare and pensions - the formalities of life in France after a no-deal Brexit

28 August 2019
By Oliver Rowland
Is the no-deal ordonnance ratified?

The French act passed in January giving the govern­ment the power to pass no-deal Brexit laws quickly by order, including ones protecting the rights of British residents, stipulates that subsequent ordonnances passed must be ratified by a bill which should be lodged before MPs within six months.

Such a bill was lodged in July but has not yet had a final MPs’ vote.

A National Assembly spokesman said the lodging met the time requirement and the ordonnance is valid.

He said the vote is expected to take place without a debate in due course.

Connexion has asked the Europe Ministry, which took the lead on the Brexit negotiations, if France is satisfied with the UK’s plans concerning the rights of French people in the UK after Brexit. This is because French no-deal laws depend on reciprocity.

We will post an update online if we receive an answer.

Applying for a carte de séjour

In line with the French laws on a no-deal Brexit, Britons who have an EU citizen carte de séjour would also have to apply for a non-EU citizen card after a no-deal Brexit, along with those who do not have an EU card.

In the case of those who already have the séjour permanent card, the law says this would simply be an exchange.

In other cases, more paperwork would be required and a level of personal means would need to be shown, over and above family benefits and income support.

The level set depends on personal circumstances but cannot be higher than the RSA (€560 for a single person, €840 for a couple without children, €1,008 for a couple with one child or €1,175 for a couple with two children).

If an applicant does not meet income requirements but owns their home or lives there free of charge, this may be acceptable. These conditions are waived for those who have the AAH or ASI disabled people’s benefit and for those who have a carte de séjour as a family member of someone with a permanent EU citizen card or who holds a vie privée et familiale card (for those with family ties in France).

The French law says Britons have one year after Brexit to obtain a card.

Interior Ministry sources previously told Connexion an online system for applying for residency cards is being prepared, though there is no further news of progress on this. This may be due to ongoing uncertainty as to exactly what kind of Brexit there will be.

In the case of Brexit with a negotiated deal, there would be a transition per-iod to the end of 2020, during which nothing would change, and Britons would be allowed to lodge card applications up to the middle of 2021.

In this scenario, it is possible that, rather than standard “third-country” (non-EU) cards, there could then be special Britannique cards, relating to rights contained in any Brexit deal.

Passports

Anyone travelling into the Schengen Zone after a no-deal, including Britons living in France returning from trips and UK residents visiting France, must have at least six months to run on their passport, not including any ‘extra’ time allocated due to renewing early.

Click here to access the UK government's online tool to check passport validity.

Healthcare

Visitors to France after a no-deal Brexit should consider taking out travel health insurance as the Ehic system will not be operational.

In theory, health cover for the trip is one of the items that can be checked by border officials for non-EU citizens entering the country. In practice, however, Americans in France say visitors are not usually asked to show this.

The issue of continuing funding for UK pensioners’ healthcare in France will also arise. Then-health minister Stephen Hammond said earlier this year the UK would guarantee funding for a year for those who are having treatment at the time of a no-deal Brexit, or have treatment scheduled.

The French no-deal laws say British S1 holders could continue to be covered in the French system as now, for two years, pending further negotiations with the UK.

Even in a worst-case scenario, it is expected that anyone with established residency could access French healthcare under the Puma system, which requires an annual payment by those with means over a certain level.

The payment amount is 8% of capital income. Under current French rules, a British state pension would not be included in the means assessment.

Pensions

There should be no problems with Britons in France receiving UK state pensions in a no-deal, said the DWP, however continued uprating may depend on a reciprocal deal with France (French old age pensions are not frozen for their citizens overseas).

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said major private pension providers have now set up arrangements to ensure payments can continue to be made into bank accounts in France.

However, the ABI advises that people receiving private pensions should contact their provider to check.

In the worst-case scenario, if payments could not be made to French accounts, they could be made to UK accounts and transferred across.

While the UK is still an EU member, Britons in France have an automatic right to open a basic UK bank account.

French residents who do not have a UK account may wish to open one before the expected Brexit day.

Driving

The CERT at Nantes prefecture, which deals with applications from UK licence-holders wanting to swap to a French licence, is only accepting licences which are expiring (the photocard or the right to drive) or for other ‘obligatory’ reasons such as committing a driving offence which requires the removal of points in the French system or gaining a new licence category (eg passing an HGV test).

However, France has agreed Britons driving on UK licences before Brexit may continue to do so legally in France.

Last year, Connexion identified a potential problem for Britons in France planning to drive in other countries which require an International Driving Permit (IDP) for foreign visitors. France, for example, usually requires this from drivers with non-EU licences. 

At the time the UK was not included in a list of countries whose licence-holders could apply for a French IDP, nor was it possible to obtain a UK one without a UK address.

The UK has now been added to the French list and so it is currently possible to apply for a French IDP via the ANTS service, online. Certain EU countries like Italy would require UK licence holders to have an IDP after a no-deal Brexit.

Due to the French pledge that UK licences of Britons living in France before Brexit would be valid in France after a no-deal it may still be possible for these licence-holders to apply for a French IDP after a no-deal, however, Connexion is awaiting confirmation.

Pet passports

As pet passports are an EU scheme, UK pet passports would no longer be valid for travel into the EU from the UK, meaning additional paperwork. Pet-owners affected should speak to a vet at least four months before travel.
The UK has said it will still accept EU travellers with their pets as now but there would be extra requirements on French residents bringing a pet to France from the UK. See March issue, or click this link.

Air travel

A local organiser for the British Community Committee of France said Britons should be braced for possible severe travel disruption because of issues such as plane insurance contracts potentially being invalidated.

However the association Airlines UK, which represents British carriers, told Connexion it is not aware of any such difficulties. It added both sides have put measures in place to permit UK airlines to continue flying to the EU after Brexit day and vice-versa (however the measures are temporary pending further negotiations).

It also said those UK airlines that run internal EU flights have now also found solutions, such as setting up subsidiaries in the EU to ensure new EU-based operating licences.

EasyJet has a structure in Austria, for example, while Irish carrier Ryanair now has a specific UK one.

Voting

Voting rights in EU elections and local mairie elections would stop after Brexit so Britons would not be able to vote or stand, in the French local elections next March.

This is sad news for the 900 British local councillors in France.

Many are seeking French nationality, but this may take several years to achieve, depending on individual prefectures and the demands on them.

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