A big thank you to Elaine Jacobs for writing up the results of the British Embassy Outreach Meeting held last week in Perpignan.
Perpignan, 5 September 2018
Embassy reps Tom, Chloe and Emily, welcomed a “record-breaking” audience (+/- 130) to the British Embassy’s outreach meeting in Perpignan on Thursday, 5 September. Our numbers were undoubtedly swelled by about 15 holiday home owners not resident in France.
In his opening remarks, Tom explained that the purpose of the meeting was to give us the best possible information on the impact of Brexit on our rights and that, even if our questions couldn’t be answered now, they would help the Embassy relay to the government what our concerns were. He emphasised that “No deal” was not the government’s objective and that it was confident of achieving a deal with the EU. He added that premier ministre Edouard Philippe has promised to “sort out” a no-deal scenario for us.
Unsurprisingly, given the preponderance of retirees in the audience, most of the questions centred on healthcare, pensions and residency. Here’s a summary.
The non-residents were particularly concerned about the possibility of having to pay taxes other than foncière, and of having to get visas so that they could continue to visit for the proposed 180 days each year. A five-month one wouldn’t be long enough, and a long stay one is “difficult to get”.
Tom’s response was one that we would hear a lot in the following 90 minutes. To wit: “Holiday homes are not covered in the draft Withdrawal Agreement (WA), but will be addressed in a future agreement after the implementation period (IP).”
Despite instructions from the French ministry of the interior, prefectures still vary in how they deal with our applications for Cartes de Séjour, so experiences among the audience also varied. We were referred to The Connexion’s website for an English translation of the documents needed. Tom added that the French government would be publishing detailed advice regarding residency, and that it was expected to come up with a “smooth, quick and transparent” transfer into a new, post-Brexit system.
Family reunification rights are detailed in the WA.
There were worries about French children born to British parents: could they still apply for British citizenship?. Tom said that there were no plans to change the current arrangements. Then there were their rights as students; eg, grants, tuition fees… One woman said that Montpellier Uni had told her that these young people “wouldn’t have access” next year. Tom said that things should be “broadly as before”; it was his understanding that nothing would change, but this subject would form “part of future negotiations”.
It is unclear if a Brit/EU couple could move to another EU country after Brexit. “We don’t yet know the detail.”
In the event of no deal, many wanted the government to give us reassurance over healthcare NOW!
- For those of us with an S1, the UK reimburses France for 100% (not 70%) of our healthcare costs.
- The S1 healthcare arrangements are under EU rules and are not “undertaken by individual countries”.
- The UK and France do not have a bilateral agreement for healthcare costs.
Another attendee (Thank you Nick) is checking with the Embassy but his understanding is that under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), the current EU-based healthcare arrangements would continue. However, if there is a No-Deal Brexit, then these rights will be lost and there is, currently, no bilateral agreement between the UK and France. As a result, until such a bilateral agreement might be negotiated, British expats who are resident in France would either have to pay all their healthcare costs in full, or take out a comprehensive medical insurance, or enter the French healthcare system via the PUMA system, or return to the UK. TO BE CONFIRMED
There was some confusion about the EHIC. The system will remain as is throughout the IP and, apparently, the UK would like it to continue.
Tom referred us to Living in France on the gov.uk website, which includes advice on accessing healthcare. The Embassy Facebook page, too, covers our main questions, answers them when it can and gives links to useful sites.
Pensions and banks
There were fears over future access to UK pensions and bank accounts. Tom assured us that UK state pensions will continue to be paid, and to increase in line with the CPI. Under the WA, people could still transfer their state pensions into the French system.
Some British banks seemed to be on the ball, while others had “no idea”. One thing is clear, it seems: Brits abroad cannot continue to add to a UK savings account. Tom referred us to a TA on this subject:
The Guardian sums it up thus:
“With UK banks likely to lose access to EU payments systems, the financial services paper warns: “Customers (including business using these providers to process euro payments) could face increased costs and slower processing times for euro transactions. The cost of card payments between the UK and EU will likely increase.”
Customers of UK banks living in the EU “may lose the ability to access lending and deposit services, and insurance contracts”, the paper says.
Consumers would face slower and more costly credit card payments when they buy EU products, and British citizens living abroad could lose access to payments from their bank accounts, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government has warned.” i
Business people were worried about taxation after Brexit. Tom’s response: “Commercial relations will form part of future negotiations”.
Driving in the UK on a French permit, ditto (though Tom pointed out that was broad agreement throughout the world on driving standards).
Would UK passport holders in France need visas to visit Spain? Probably not, given that both countries are in the Schengen area. A CDS would allow free movement for visiting another EU country. Onward freedom of movement for work or residency is missing from the WA, but “will be discussed further”.
The suggestion was made that citizens’ rights already enshrined in the WA be ring fenced so that, in the event of no deal, these rights would still obtain. MORE