The meeting ended on a jovial note with the minister confirming that “as a representative of the British Government, he could not advise British citizens to apply for French nationality.”

The strong message from the British Embassy in Paris is Don’t Panic, there is no need. Everything is under control. However, all British residents in France who are entitled to apply for a carte de sejour are advised to do so, and Brits seeking to preserve existing rights for freedom of movement within Europe need to consider whether their needs are more suited to a French nationality application. All prefectures in France have been informed that all entitled British citizens applying for carte de sejours should have them granted. Anyone experiencing any difficulty in this regard is invited to contact the British Embassy who have recruited additional staff to assist Brits requiring assistance.

The meeting was strictly apolitical and there was ample time provided at the end for person’s present to ask questions. The update on negotiations regarding Britain’s exit from the EU are that there is a commitment to a deal being in place at the point of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29th March 2019. At present agreement has been reached in principal on continued residency rights for British residents in France and for health benefits and pension entitlements to continue much as at present. Matters upon which agreement has not yet been reached are reciprocal sharing of qualifications i.e. UK nursing qualifications being recognised in France and entitlement to onward movement in Europe. i.e. if a UK resident in France wants to go to Spain for over 3 months a year.

The minister advised that a private member’s bill is currently going through the UK parliament to allow ex –pats who have been out with the UK for 15 years a lifetime right to vote. It is hoped this will form part of UK legislation in time for the 2022 general elections, but that was cold comfort for those who were unable to vote in the Brexit referendum.

The minister emphasised that there is a commitment to a deal being in place for exit day on 29 March 2019. To have any chance of meeting this deadline, the final agreement requires to be before the European parliament for its October 2018 sitting. It is then envisaged that there will be sufficient time for the legislation to be ratified by all the European Institutions and the individual parliaments of the 27 member states in time for exit day. It would appear there would be a strong incentive for member states seeking to protect the rights of citizens they have living in the UK (who will be similarly affected by Brexit) to ensure the agreement is in place in time. In the event of no deal being in place UK residents in France will retain rights under the European Convention of Human Rights as France will still be a signatory. French residents in the UK may not have the same protection if the UK is no longer a signatory.

It is apparent that whilst it is emphasised there is no need for a contingency plan, quiet discussions are taking place about France’s attitude to British citizens resident in France and whether additional requirements will be required for continued residence after exit day. The French Government are no doubt keen to retain the majority of British citizens’ resident in France but the required criteria has not yet been confirmed. The worst case scenario would presumably be the necessity to meet the requirements for a carte de sejour.

Dordogne has the second largest British Ex-Pat population after Paris. One can assume that a high percentage of those resident in Paris are in employment and meet the necessary criteria. It may be that a large percentage of residents in Dordogne are retired and will meet the necessary income thresholds. Those most at risk in the event of a Brexit storm if Britain does crash out of the EU on 29th March 2019 are those below retirement age who are not ‘in activity’ and do not meet the required income thresholds for a carte de sejour. Many who fall into this minority may have been disenfranchised as a result of their length of residence in France. It would appear that such persons would have entitlement for leave to remain under European Human Rights legislation. However, if there is no agreement in place by 29/3/19 and the French Government decides to insist on the possession of a carte de sejour or equivalent for Brits leaving France after 29th March 2019 and seeking to return to France for more than three months in every six, persons in this category could find themselves stranded in France until the necessary agreements are ratified. The transition period is 21 months from 29th March 2019.

One member of the audience pointed out that it is the millennial generation who will be most affected by Brexit. They will not enjoy the freedoms to travel, study and work in Europe which their parents enjoyed.

Links for information provided at the meeting – (for naturalisation) (for carte de sejour) -british-community-in-france exiting-the-european-union

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Eilidh McGinness Author The Cypher Bureau

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