Six tips to accept Brexit into your French life with serenity

Columnist Cynthia Spillman waited 60 years to move to France - then Brexit happened. This is how she deals with it

Brexit happened and we have to adapt – or sink

I nearly fell downstairs in shock when I heard the Brexit referendum result in June 2016.

In our household, the consequences have done nothing but wreak havoc with our plans.

Shortly after the result, we travelled to our home in Nice. Wherever we were heard speaking English, we would invariably be approached by French people asking us what we thought about Brexit.

We gave our opinion and the general consensus among those we spoke to was that it was a bad decision.

For many of us, Brexit has felt like losing control over our destinies.

Personally, I have waited more than 60 years to live in France. I now have a carte de séjour but, for various reasons, my husband Peter does not.

We, like others, feel that our liberty has been restricted. Either I live separately in France or Peter has to meticulously count each day he is in Europe.

Until he semi-retired in July, he travelled a great deal internationally, which ate into his 90/180 days allowance.

We do not want to live apart. The whole point of buying a place in France was the realisation of my lifelong dream to live there.

Doing the Schengen shuffle

Peter has devised a mathematical table for meticulously counting out his days.

There are now commercially available apps which do the same thing. He has had to do sprints across Italy after a skiing holiday and hop across Europe for work in order not to fall foul of post-Brexit regulations.

And, yes, they stamp his passport at French customs, followed always by a mini-interrogation as to why I have a carte de séjour and he has not.

We love France but we dislike French bureaucracy, and Brexit is now an extra layer to wade through.

Read more: New European Entry/Exit System: 9 key things to know in advance

Travelling with our dog

Everything has changed for our dogs too. Once upon a time, the UK pet passport was sufficient to cross the Channel.

This is no longer the case. It has been replaced by a European pet passport and in order to have one, you need a French address.

Until the necessary paperwork is complete, you have to take your dog for an Animal Health Certificate before leaving the UK.

On our recent return from Nice, we were nearly barred from crossing because the French vet had forgotten to stamp Paloma’s new passport with the rabies vaccine.

Were it not for the fallback of the Animal Health Certificate, we would have been sent back to Nice for 21 days.

Read more: Second-home owners in France to register travelling pets with I-CAD

French passport saga

It has taken me more than five years to complete the formalities for the certificat de nationalité française.

Much to my horror, despite having a French mother and demonstrating proof of my French grandparents and great-grandparents, I was refused the French passport I covet.

Oh, to be able to join ‘the other queue’ at Nice airport. But it was not to be.

I have subsequently engaged the services of a French avocat to start the application process all over again.

He assures me that I am entitled to it, that it is my birthright, and has indicated that there is an unspoken quota, which means that more Brits are being refused a passport since Brexit.

If I have my French passport, then Peter can apply for his, which would greatly simplify our lives.

In the meantime, he is going to apply for a visa.

Read more: Visas for France: how often are they refused and for what reasons?

Brexit has happened - six tips on how to accept it

I am well aware of the fact that there are terrible things going on in our troubled world. I know that my Brexit moans are a first-world problem.

Things change and we have to adapt – or sink.

There is comfort, however, in knowing that others feel the same.

Brexit has happened and it does not look like it is going to be reversed any time soon. Some serenity and acceptance is needed.

Here are my top tips to achieve that:

  • Make the most of your time abroad by focusing on the positives
  • Careful planning of your stays in France is essential
  • Always keep up to date with the formalities, using a reliable source
  • Find some kindred spirits who feel the same as you do and offload when required. Unburdening yourself in a safe space with friends is a real boon
  • Things change – often for the better. Adapt as much as you can to what is in front of you now, and do not lose heart that improvements will come
  • Do not feel you ever have to explain your feelings about Brexit to anybody. It is your business only and you are not accountable for UK politics
  • What have been the effects of Brexit on your life? Share your experiences by contacting Cynthia on

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