- Healthcare is my main concern
- I have other more important concerns
- Don’t know
The National Assembly has just chaired a round-table discussion on British rights post Brexit. EU law professor Myriam Benlolo-Carabot said Brexit could be ‘cataclysmic’ for Britons’ rights in France unless otherwise agreed during the negotiations after article 50 is invoked.
Ms. Benlolo-Carabot pointed out that after Brexit, Britons would be “foreigners like any other” and that thus, they would “lose their special status and be subject to normal immigration rules”. She also stated that international law rules on acquired rights cannot be relied on; everything is up for negotiation once article 50 is triggered.
She doesn’t expect negotiations to be swift, stating “These can take up to two years but can be prolonged if the European Council decides unanimously to do so, which is very likely because there are bound to be matters which, in my opinion, will require considerably longer than that to sort out”.
The single biggest concern among British expats is the loss of EU citizenship, and the ensuing potential loss of rights, notably freedom of movement in other EU countries. This encompasses the right to live, work and start businesses in France as well as issues such as healthcare, pensions, property ownership and so on.
The president of the British Community Committee of France, Christopher Chantrey, was present and passed on concerns regarding the issue of ‘permanent’ cartes de séjour to Britons by certain prefectures and the desirability of a ‘fast-track’ to French citizenship. The director of social security Thomas Fatome pointed out that there are far more British retirees in France than French retirees in the UK – 64,000 compared to 9,000, and as a result, the health bills for the two countries are completely disproportionate. He went as far as to say that, “Without specific agreements on healthcare the system would end”.
I can’t honestly see the UK government worrying too much about expat rights. It will be like the winter fuel allowance all over again. They will probably maintain that because we eat a ‘Mediterranean’ diet we are less likely to get ill and thus have no need for reciprocal health cover. The French government on the other hand, do seem to be genuinely concerned about trying to resolve issues for British residents. In any case, is healthcare your biggest concern or are there other issues?