Don’t rush into a Brexit exit, says Robert Kent

Robert Kent of Kentingtons explains why a Brexit exit should not be rushed, but rather worked out slowly and carefully.

30 May 2020
By Robert Kent

A common query, tackled

One of the most common queries I have at the moment is: “Should I rush to complete my move to France before Brexit, ie. December 31, 2020?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to suit everybody, as it depends on the situation.

Worryingly, there are some expat companies that are using fear of being locked out to scare people into making rash decisions, arguably to ensure that they use their services. This article is to separate fact from fiction on residency and to talk of the financial planning aspects, not all the possible rights won and lost (if you want comprehensive detail, Connexion has an excellent publication Brexit and Britons in France 2020).

The first thing that strikes me is that many people have this idea of a giant drawbridge between France and the UK that will be permanently raised at the end of December, and with it, all their dreams of living in France destroyed forever. No longer being an EU citizen means the end. This has led some people to drop their lives in the UK and make a mad dash for it. For those bringing things forward only by a few months, this may make perfect sense.

We have come across a huge number of people, however, who are bringing their move forward by many years, maybe risking their financial security in doing so. I strongly suggest weighing up the pros and cons before taking action. I am a believer in the mantra “good decisions are based on good information”.

Read more: Brexit: second home-owners campaign for long stays

Residency rules

First, the important bit: the ability to move from the UK to France is not at risk! When I moved to France, there was no right to live and work across EU countries at all (I am showing my age now!). I had to gain a residency permit, showing I was not a liability to the state, like everyone else. It is estimated that around 30% of foreigners living in France come from non-EU countries. Indeed, many of our clients are non-EU and I have yet to see any real issues with residency, normal petty administration struggles aside.

Also, consider the large number of UK nationals who move to the US, Canada, Australia and numerous other countries that are certainly not part of the EU, but they manage it all the same. It is unlikely that there will be one residency rule for the entire world, but some exceptional new rules for UK nationals after Brexit.

France is one of the countries leading the charge for UK residency rights for current expats and it is not advocating blocking up the tunnel. What is understandably confusing many are the rules of residency regarding the EU, in general, and the rules of residency applying to any particular EU country, such as France.

Each country in the EU has its own rules for residency and the French rules are not problematic for those who can financially support themselves, ie. mainly not being a liability to the state. Other EU states have different residency rules, some of them considerably more challenging. This means that you will read a great deal of conflicting information, so it is important to analyse the situation regarding France and its rules and not just EU-wide rules for non-EU citizens.

Read more: how to prove French residency

The pros and cons of a quick move

While it is true that many of the benefits for EU citizens will remain for those who are established in France before the end of the transition period, one has to weigh up the pros and cons of doing so in a hurry, against, potentially, losing those benefits. We have seen people sprint to make the leap, more than 10 years before they planned to do so, in order to get their feet under the table. Leaving the UK meant giving up their secure, well-paid UK jobs, with plans to run gîtes and/or teach English as a foreign language.

In this pandemic world, this is now a problem as the gîtes are empty and face-to-face lessons are an issue. It means living off their savings, which may run out quickly. If retirement age is a way off, worries about the S1 and healthcare are not an issue, or indexation. The only reason to move is to be sure of the right of residency, which is not a reason at all. This is just one example of many that I have seen (many times), where there was little advantage in rushing.

It makes sense to take the time to really understand the implications of waiting vs pushing for a quick move. Moving to another country requires careful thought and planning. When you move to another country, everything you know and understand will change. Reading Connexion’s Brexit guide is a great start, and then taking some professional guidance, to be sure you understand the implications for you and your personal situation.

Find all our helpguides for more in-depth information, here.

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