Automatic right to move to France kept to end of 2020

Draft withdrawal agreement grants current residency rights for Britons moving to France

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Britons who move to France after Brexit on March 29, 2019 but before January 1, 2021 will gain automatic full residency rights under the draft withdrawal agreement agreed by the UK and the EU.

A transition period was requested by UK Prime Minister Theresa May who said “businesses would welcome the certainty it would give”. Due to this, UK/EU relations will continue as now although the UK is set to cease to be an EU member or have MEPs from March 29, 2019.

Mrs May had originally proposed that anyone moving during the transition period should be treated differently to those established before, however this has been dropped.

It means anyone looking to move to France has almost three years to do so before stricter administrative rules start to apply.

In terms of expats’ rights the draft agreement mostly puts into a legal format points protecting expats that were agreed between negotiators in 2017.

Nonetheless campaign groups such as the British in Europe (BiE) coalition say the points fall short of original promises that expats who had moved in good faith under their EU automatic free movement rights should be able to live their lives as before.

The chairman of BiE member body British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, said: “The agreement on the transition is an advance, though it will not be confirmed until the very end as ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.

“However there are other things that put it in the shade.”

He said the biggest concerns are a failure to guarantee ‘onward free movement’ (the continuing right to live and work anywhere) in the EU – which many working people rely on – and a simple solution to recognition of UK qualifications in the EU after Brexit. The agreement protects recognition in the EU of UK qualifications where the holder has submitted them for a formal vetting procedure, as opposed to a simple principle that any qualifications that were acceptable before Brexit would remain so.

There has been speculation that the omission in the latest version of the draft of article 32, which spelled out the lack of onward movement, may signify a relaxation on this point – however this has not been confirmed.

The draft states that EU states may, after Brexit, require Britons to apply for a residence card ‘conferring’ a ‘new residence status’, but says those who already have a ‘permanent stay card’ (carte de séjour) will be able to exchange it in a very simple procedure.

On the UK’s request, and due to a reciprocity rule, formalities to obtain a card, including for those with a carte de séjour, could include declarations of criminal offences and a criminal record check, though the two sides have stated that only people whose conduct represents a ‘genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat’ would be barred.

Rights under the agreement could be lost after five years away from the country of residence and the draft does not confer rights on any future spouses or partners who come to live in the EU after the transition period. BiE requests people write to MPs about these issues. It is concerned that the two sides imply that the rights section is now finished, or as UK Brexit Minister David Davis has said, ‘locked down’.