What do the election results mean for Brits in France?

Today is a tough day for us. We know that people are shocked and angry and hurting, as we are ourselves after three and a half years of campaigning ... yesterday there was still a glimmer of hope that we might remain in the EU; today that's gone - it's a true Friday the 13th.

But while today is a time to hunker down and mourn, it's also for us a time to be pragmatic and look forward to what the results mean for British citizens in France and across the EU. And hard though it might be to accept right now, there is a bright side.

Always look on the bright side of life ...

After last night's extraordinary landslide victory for the Tories, we can expect the Withdrawal Agreement to be passed in January. The Withdrawal Bill still has to go through Parliament, but with such a big majority it's hard to see how it could fail.

The citizens' rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement covers most of our current rights, with some exceptions such as continuing freedom of movement, political and voting rights and the ability to provide services in another EU country. So - in a nutshell and bearing in mind the exceptions - those covered by the Agreement get to

  • live and work in our current country of residence on similar terms to those we enjoy as EU citizens;
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals of that country and EU citizens;
  • enjoy ongoing reciprocal health care rights (under the S1 scheme) whether we already qualify now or will qualify on future retirement;
  • aggregate social security contributions made in different countries both before and after Brexit;
  • be joined by close family members (spouse, partner, ascendants, descendants);
  • keep these rights for our lifetimes;
  • enjoy the protection of a legally binding international treaty.
To find out more about your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and the key dates, read our two recent articles here https://www.francerights.info/2019/11/whats-big-deal-part-1-what-does-draft.html and here https://www.francerights.info/2019/11/whats-big-deal-part-2-what-do-we-know.html

So while we completely understand (and share) everyone's sadness and anger today, please take a deep breath because there is a bright side. Our rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are far and away better than they would be if there were a hard Brexit with no agreement, and we can rely on them in France for our lifetimes.

So remember:

But what if there's no trade deal?

If the government fails to negotiate a future relationship/trade deal by the December 31st 2020 and there's no extension to the transition agreement, then the UK would automatically default to trading on WTO terms - this is often referred to in the media as a second no deal point.

However, the Withdrawal Agreement would remain in place as an international treaty and the rights that it includes for us would remain covered.

They cannot be removed even in the absence of a trade agreement. Once the Withdrawal Agreement is in force, we will be covered by it for our lifetimes whatever happens with future negotiations and whatever happens with future governments either in the UK or France.

What now?

Once the UK government has passed the Withdrawal Agreement, it must be ratified by the European Parliament. The UK will then leave the EU on 31 January 2020. We lose our political and voting rights on that day, so won't be able to vote or stand in the municipal elections next year.

The transition period will start on 1 February 2020 and run - unless extended - until 31 December 2020. During that period all our rights (except political rights) remain unchanged; it will still be possible to move from the UK to France under current free movement rules and be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement - so if you're dreaming of a move, you still have a year to do it. 

All British citizens living in France will have to apply for a new carte de séjour, and the Withdrawal Agreement specifies that we'll have until 31 July 2021 (6 months after the end of the transition period) to do this.

What next for France Rights and British in Europe?

France Rights will be continuing to work with the British Embassy and the Ministry of the Interior to clarify how France intends to implement the Withdrawal Agreement. We hope that the French government will carry forward the preparations they've made for a no deal Brexit, including the online application system, but so far no plans have been disclosed. We'll keep you in the loop.

The British in Europe steering team is meeting this weekend to discuss how we go forward. I'm not breaking any confidences if I say that we (there are just 10 of us, all volunteers trying to do this work on top of our jobs and family life) are all utterly exhausted after three and a half years of relentless advocacy and campaigning, so we have some big decisions to take. Again, we'll keep you informed.

Please help us by donating to British in Europe

Our early work on the citizens' rights chapter of the Withdrawal Agreement helped shape what it is today. If you value what we've done, and what we continue to do, please help us to continue a little longer by donating to our association - we're a French-registered Association Loi 1901. 

It's simple to do - find out how here: https://britishineurope.org/2019/11/03/donate-today/. Every little helps. 

Thank you.


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