Okay so if I haven’t lost you in the title then please bear with. Unless you have been on another planet, then Brexit isn’t something you can escape hearing about, whether you like it or not. Although, living here in France, it’s far easier to get away from the constant dissecting of it and watch from afar. Which is so liberating. Of course, I can tap into BBC News and what not but I do feel somewhat detached from the whole process, sitting here on mainland europe and by jove it feels good!
I was asked to write an article on how this will specifically affect us as a family living here in France. Well firstly, I should give you a bit of background (which you can read here) about why we moved in the first place. Why move before Brexit has been finalised? Surely that’s a bit risky? Surely it’s better to wait until some clarity some certainty has been given to ex-pats/immigrants living in France?
Firstly I’m not really a risk taker. I may come across as a dynamic individual… ha ha just kidding….yes I am somewhat risk averse so I’m just as surprised as you that I said “right come on we’re leaving”. This was before any first round of talks and during a period of confusion from worried people on forums wondering how this will affect their lives in Europe.
Without getting too political (that was my old blog) – I was a remainer. I don’t care if you weren’t. You actually did me a favour so thank you.
For my part, I like being European and I don’t consider Europe to be the cause of the social problems of the UK. Nope. I believe it is the fault of successive governments and don’t even get me started on Cameron asking people a yes or no question! And where is he now? Off somewhere writing a book no doubt. The title being “Was I the worst prime minister this country has ever seen? If you want my no holds barred take on it – here’s my blog post I wrote prior to the result.
So nope, austerity and closing down perfectly functioning hospitals, libraries, selling the post office, closing surestart centers etc wasn’t, in my view, Europes doing it was down to UK government choices.
So yes, it was a major factor in our decision. I personally felt years of Conservative rule wasn’t going to be a good thing for my children. I lived in Croydon, South London where the north of the borough is extremely poverty stricken and riddled with knife and gun crime. Whereas the south is more affluent however even in this part of the borough where we lived, you would only be streets away from massive differences between the haves and the have nots. Take this example for instance, we lived on a main road with an approx 5 min walk (in a north or south direction) to two primary schools. One had a free school meals percentage (i.e families on incomes below £16,000) of 14% the other was 50%.
One bedroomed flats (last year) were selling for £300,000 and people who were working could barely afford their £1,000 per month rent for said flat. Even when my children become adults on a decent salary – how an earth would they ever be able to afford a home of their own? I love them dearly but I do want them to fly the nest at some point. Here, in France and generally in Europe, there is affordable housing and rent for people. It’s not taking a massive amount from your monthly income.
So how will it affect us? Prior to our move we had no idea as to whether we would have to apply for a residency permit like non-Europeans once the UK left the union. Lot’s of people, understandably decided to hang fire – to wait and see what would happen as they did not want to invest in a property and then find out that they weren’t entitled to health care etc. Or they had to do a merry jig on one leg whilst dancing through hoops set on fire.
Estate agents may well see an interest in properties here but are they signing on the dotted line? I’m not so sure. I’ve yet to meet an Estate Agent that says houses aren’t being snapped up all the time.
That’s another worry for the current retirees in France – they are entitled to health care under their current European citizen status. They simply get a form called an S1 which means they can get cover under the French system and other rights. They still have to top up their cover as (unless you are on a low income) you are only covered up to approx 70% so you need to get cover for the rest. I do know of people, who are of retirement age (and perhaps are more inclined to worry), who have sold up or are selling up because of Brexit.
I am a believer in being in control of your own destiny. We weren’t going to let politicians dictate our future and our wish to experience life in another country – which being in the European union allowed us to do. So, what ever happens I have no control over it. So we went and did it anyway. I do know others who have done the same.
Already in the first round of talks they have (and something I suspected might happen) confirmed that if you are in the country before 2019 (the date the UK leaves the EU) then you and your family will be guaranteed European rights. So the same things I am entitled to do here – live and work in France, to send my kids to school, to have access to the health care, to have access to the family allowance for having 3 children and access to benefits (far more than the UK) should we need to based on income. I also have to pay the French rate of national insurance contributions and tax and be subject to their laws and inheritance rules which are very different to the UK. I can do all those things.
So, in theory, and if the first round of talks are then signed off our family will be entitled to what we had before. However, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be running back to the UK anytime soon.
I have an Australian friend who has lived here with her three children for 12 years. She annoyingly, has to get into a different queue, when visiting the UK or Jersey for that matter but she is able to live and work in France. She is established here and I cannot see the French government ‘kicking’ out people who are contributing to society especially those with children. We all have aging populations. I would imagine that if we weren’t going to be treated like EU citizens than the Australian/USA approach would be adopted of which there are many living here in France. We would have to apply to be allowed to stay in the country – a bit more faffing but no one is being booted out. Once you’re entitled to be here you’re entitled to be here. And guess what the European Union would have your back as a non-European citizen. Ironic or what?!
Recently the EU has said that people should be able to watch something like BBC Iplayer without having to purchase a VPN. A VPN is a ‘virtual private network’ that basically disables the function that tells the computers etc that you are residing in France. The EU, in my view, has citizens rights at the forefront of what it does. I like these guys!
I really don’t think that the UK government wants its aging ex-pat retirees back do you? Better the French have a drain on their health system then the NHS. Do they want to send back 300,000 young French entrepreneurs merrily making a living in London? Does the UK really want the EU citizens that are being paid low wages to do jobs that the British never historically have ever done i.e harvesting, cleaning etc want these people to leave? Again 1 in 4 UK born (1970s) women haven’t had children some because they can’t but many through choice. The UK needs the EU citizens that are already there.
So I really think Brexit has affected us in a good way even though it was something I would never wish for and feel irritated by. It forced our hand to move country to give our children more opportunities and choices and for us to experience a different way of life.
Whether we succeed here or not. Whether I tire of listening to my europop tunes, the challenges of the day to day boring stuff in another language – I will never have any regrets because we gave it a go.
If, we don’t get to have EU rights then we would have a bit more paperwork. A bit more aggro, a bit more inconvenience when getting into queues at airports waving our black (my old one is black why do people say it’s blue!) passports. My children on school trips will have to wait separately from their classmates. I have a concertina with photocopies of paperwork ready and waiting for my initiation with French bureaucracy so what’s another thing to do in the grand scheme of things?!
In summary, Brexit isn’t affecting us in a negative way only a positive at the moment – but come back and see me in 2019!
If you live in France and would like to read up-to-date articles on all the Brexit details then here are some good links:-