Brexit: Borders, Benefits, Bureaucracy

ukeuropemap (2)I’ve lived in France for 10 years now but I still watch UK television. I tried French TV for a few weeks and in French hotels, I still get a dose of it for a few hours and I’m afraid it just doesn’t do it for me. I think the last straw on the back of my camel was an episode of French Countdown, ‘Des Chiffres et des Lettres.’
Therefore, the next few weeks’ television will consist of debate after debate; news item after news item; documentary after documentary about the so-called Brexit. Most supporters of the exit will (quite wrongly, in my opinion) concentrate on the 3 B’s above. They are by far the most emotive words bandied about by mainstream and social media alike.
I suppose I have a vested interest that is somewhat different to those still living in the UK, in that I will still be living in Europe if the UK decides to leave. But I will still have a British passport and I will always have one; I have no intention of changing that.
I’m going to have a go at suggesting what it might mean for the current British expat; nobody is absolutely certain what it will actually mean. I won’t discuss the people who are thinking of becoming expats, nor for those giving up on the life and leaving France. The status of the former group is even less certain but for the latter group, they will be subject to the same benefits (no, not that word!) or problems of suddenly being outside Europe. I say suddenly but I’m fairly sure that the exit will not be immediate; I believe it could take up to 2 years to ‘leave the building.’
I suppose that those wishing to return right now may find it difficult to sell up. It depends on the type of property they are selling but potential buyers in the UK may be reluctant to take the plunge at this point in time. The same obviously doesn’t go for buyers from other EU countries. But bon chance if that is what you are trying to do at the moment.
I don’t know the exact number of British expats living in France but the number seems to be approaching the 200,000 mark. Let’s split up these numbers in terms of demographics; retirees and those of working age, with or without children. I am not going to attempt to give financial advice to anyone, I am nowhere near qualified; I’ll keep it as simple and as uncertain as it seems to me.

• When I say retirees, I really mean those receiving pensions – I feel it is a kinder word than pensioners. At the moment, the state pension can be paid into your UK or French bank account. If it is a UK bank, there will obviously be no change. The change may come if it is paid into your French account. It will still be possible but will bank charges be higher? Will exchange rates be better or worse?
• One partner is claiming a pension and the other still working and you are therefore paying income tax. There is currently a ‘Double Taxation Convention,’ an agreement between France and England which ensures you will only pay tax on income once. So if you are paying tax on your UK pension in the UK, there will be no more to pay in France. I know this seems obvious but the point is, you can choose the country in which to pay your tax at the moment and it is this that may change.
• You are employed or you have your own business in France. Scaremongers have said that this will not continue, expats will not be able to have a French business. Our value to the French economy means that this is highly unlikely. Similarly, I’m quite sure that employees of French companies are just as valuable to them.
In all cases though, we may have to revert to the old way of registering our French residency, the so-called carte de sejour. This ought not to be a great hardship, I know a few American citizens who need to go through this process at the moment.

I have not tackled the subject of reciprocal healthcare arrangements for those not working in France and for those in the French health system who fall ill when spending time in the UK. I’m assuming that there will have to be changes as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is only valid in EU member countries. This is one of many current agreements that will have to be renegotiated.
To summarise then, a “Yes” to exit the EU will mean some changes, but I think that these will take some time and won’t be too drastic. I think. I hope!
For what it’s worth, and this is my personal view, not just from the point of view of an expat; I will be voting to stay in. I may well follow up this article with another, nearer the time, to explain why. What I need to do first is to fully research the real issues involved – ALL of them! I urge you all to do the same before you vote.
I will use this method: https://www.gov.uk/apply-vote-proxy.
Any British citizen who has lived outside the UK for less than 15 years can vote.
Another way is this: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote.

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Things to Consider Before Moving to France

moving to france

When you are moving anywhere, be it abroad or just nationally – you should always consider every single aspect of the move. This can be from where you are going to work and how sustainable will your lifestyle to be, all the way to where you are going to shop or get your everyday bread and milk from?

Bread & Milk

Bread & Milk

With that in mind, if you are moving to a completely different country then you should make sure you have visited the area first and have a basic understanding of the lifestyle you will be subjecting yourself too.

When you are looking to buy in another country, such as France you should inspect the property you are looking to buy and when would be best to buy it. Of course, if you can afford to buy a house with ease then it is hard to say that there is a bad time. However if you buy a house whilst the market is weak – meaning house prices are low, means that you are likely to make money on the property once you have bought it and the market inflates.

Climate changes in different locations      of the country

Climate changes in different locations
of the country

Another thing to consider is the climate and the weather in your newfound neighbourhood; in France there are a range of different weather patterns that occur purely down to the fact that it has such a large surface area. You can go for places in the south of France, that have a glorious summer and high temperatures, or somewhere like Paris, where the weather is very seasonal and will change dramatically depending on the time of year – alternatively, somewhere in the alps that is guaranteed snow for the winter months. With all of these options it is important you think about where you are moving and how accessible it is for you, for example the alps can be difficult to travel up and down due to their long windy roads and icy conditions, this means it might be less feasible for family to come over for a weekend. Whereas if you live in Paris it’s a simple train journey from the UK.

When evaluating your options consider what you intend on using your property for, are you going to live in it year round, or will you decide to use it purely as a holiday home, alternatively you might purely be buying property as an investment and rent it out to holiday makers. You will want to look for different thing depending on the purpose of the property. If you looking for somewhere for yourselves you might be happy with something that requires some on-going work which you can do yourself. If it’s a holiday home you will want something manageable and will be fine if it’s left for an extended period of time. If you want something to rent out you will need something complete and finished and people will not want to rent a house, which still needs work doing to it.

Stone Village House  Renovation Project

Stone Village House
Renovation Project

If the property does need renovating or converting is it do able. While a building might look safe it might not be structurally sound and could be an accident waiting to happen. Try to find a local builder to look at the house with you before you purchase to make sure its safe and you are able to do all the work you want to do to it. You could even find there is building restriction, which means you cannot do any work to the house. By doing this you help to protect yourself against any future roadblock, which could have been avoided.

Once you have your house you will need to furnish and decorate it. You have two possible solutions for this, one is to source all furniture locally from France or you can buy it in England and ship it down. While furniture will be easier to source in France you may find yourself paying over the odd for something because you lack local knowledge. It could be easier to buy any furniture in the UK were you have more knowledge on furniture and pricing, then you can ship it down in one big go using a company like Anglo French Removals who specialise in removals to France. This way you can order and collect furniture over time and make sure you get the best deals.

 

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