I arrived in France in August 1988 at the age of 39. My French partner, who I met in the UK, had accepted a job on the French Riviera. I gave up my job as a medical Research Fellow at Southampton University to go with him. I saw it as a short-term adventure. Just over 30 years later I am still here. In the intervening years I’ve worked as a business and general English trainer, and oral examiner, I’ve had a child who is now an adult living and working here, and I’ve separated from my partner.
I haven’t been able to vote in UK elections for the last 15 years and so played no active part in the 2016 referendum, but I followed the remain and leave campaigns closely. I was shocked and dismayed by the unexpected result, although I fully appreciate the concerns of those who voted to leave. Worried about the future, I applied for and obtained French citizenship in 2017. So, I now have dual nationality, which will enable me to move freely and easily between France and the UK. However, I still have serious concerns about the consequences of a no deal Brexit for me. My first concern is that my British driving license might no longer be valid.
However, my primary worry, in a no deal Brexit scenario, concerns passporting rights. Although I continue to work part-time, I am officially retired in both countries. As I continued to pay voluntary class 3 national insurance contributions in the UK, I receive a UK state pension plus a small NHS pension. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, I understand that passporting rights will end 9 months later which, I fear, would mean that I would no longer be able to receive these pensions in France. In this case, I would have no choice but to return to the UK as my French pension is not nearly enough to live on. Furthermore, I assume I would not be able to receive my very small French pension in the UK! A move back to the UK after over 30 years would be an enormous upheaval. It would also mean that I would rarely see my son, which would be heart-breaking. The government’s Brexit deal was voted down on 15thJanuary 2019. Thus, the likelihood of a no deal Brexit has increased, and my concerns are closer to becoming a reality.