The “Brexit” refers to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU).
On June 23th 2016, in a referendum organised by former Prime Minister David Cameron, 51.9% of Britons chose to leave the EU. Following the triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on March 29th 2017, the UK and the 27 other EU member countries have given themselves two years to prepare for the actual exit of the country. However, Brexit has been postponed several times, until January 31rst 2020.
On October 17th 2019, a new exit agreement was concluded between the UK and the Europeans. It was definitively adopted by the British Parliament and then by the European Parliament.
On January 31rst 2020 at midnight (Brussels time), the United Kingdom left the European Union.
I – The main stages of Brexit
The transition period
During this period, which began on January 31st 2020 and will end on December 31st 2020, the United Kingdom is no longer a Member State of the European Union and the European Energy Community but continues to comply with European Union law.
These 11 months are being used to prepare for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and to anticipate the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
The end of the transition period will bring important changes for citizens and businesses.
Until December 31st 2020 nothing changes for people, consumers and businesses in both the EU and the UK. The withdrawal agreement provides that the UK will continue to comply with the full acquis of the Union (including all EU directives, norms and standards) during the transition period.
The relationship between the EU and the UK at the end of the transition period
The final agreement should include an economic partnership as well as a security partnership. Principles will have to be respected (balance of rights and obligations, fair competition, decision-making autonomy of the Union, etc.).
However, points of agreement are essential to ensure a level playing field that respects the common standards that will be in force at the end of the transition period in the following areas:
- State aid,
- Social and employment standards,
- The environment,
- Relevant tax issues.
The rules laid down will be designed to avoid undue competitive advantages for the EU or the UK.
The withdrawal agreement
The withdrawal agreement covers the following areas:
- Citizens’ rights: this part of the withdrawal agreement aims to preserve the rights of British and European citizens in their State of residence,
- The transition period,
- A protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus,
- The Financial Regulation, which guarantees that the UK will meet all financial obligations entered into when it was a member of the Union,
- The overall management of the withdrawal agreement, the monitoring of its application and the settlement of disputes.
II – The impact of Brexit on people
The right to reside in the United Kingdom
The UK authorities have now introduced settled status for EU nationals and their family members after the UK’s exit from the EU.
There are two different resident statuses:
- Settled status: EU nationals who have been continuously resident in the UK for at least 5 years (with no absence from the territory for more than 6 consecutive months a year) can apply for permanent residence status. It allows the holder to stay for up to 5 consecutive years outside the UK without losing permanent resident status.
- Pre-settled status: EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for less than 5 years will be eligible for pre-settled status, pending fulfilment of the residence requirement.
They will be able to apply for permanent resident status free of charge as soon as they have fulfilled the condition of residence in the UK: at least 6 months a year for 5 years.
Pre-Permanent Residence Status allows the holder to stay for up to 2 consecutive years outside the UK without losing the rights attached to the Pre-Permanent Residence Status.
The persons concerned and their family members will have until June 30th 2021 to make the request.
Both residency statuses will allow after December 31st 2020:
- To work in the United Kingdom,
- To benefit from the services of the National Health Service (NHS),
- To continue their studies in the United Kingdom,
- To benefit from public aid (allowances, benefits, retirement pensions, etc.),
- To travel to and from the UK freely.
Applicants must submit their application only online and their status will be fully digital. Holders of the status will be able to consult it online but will not be issued with a card attesting to their status. To do this, you will need to visit the UK government website.
The right to work in the UK
With the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, the rights and obligations already applicable in the European Union are guaranteed. Employment contracts or promises of employment remain and cannot be called into question. The rights and obligations relating to the employment contract also remain during this period.
The right to reside in France
During the transition period, British nationals and their family members already settled in France or wishing to settle there before December 31st 2020 will not be required to hold a residence permit.
British nationals and their family members present in France before December 31st 2020 must apply online before July 1st 2021. They will be issued with a residence permit stating «Accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’Union Européenne ».
British nationals arriving in France after December 31st 2020 must apply for a common law residence permit at the prefecture. As an exception, British citizens who are family members of British citizens already settled in France before December 31st 2020 will benefit from a free visa and access to a residence permit once they have arrived in France as provided for in the agreement.
British nationals, regardless of their date of arrival in France, will need to hold a residence permit from October 1st 2021.
Residence permits marked “European Union citizen” obtained before the end of the transitional period will continue to be valid until October 1st 2021 but will lose their validity after that date.
The right to work in France
For British employees working in France, the transition period ensures the same rights and obligations applicable in the European Union. The conditions that will be implemented after the end of the transition period are still under negotiation.
As regards employment contracts, the rights acquired before and during the transitional period will continue to apply beyond January 1st 2021. Employment contracts or promises of employment remain. However, it will be necessary to observe the new measures taken with regard to the right of residence and work permits, some of which will come into force as of January 1st 2021.
For British self-employed workers who started their professional activity in France before December 31st 2020, they will not need a work permit. Only those who moved to France on or after January 1st 2021 will be required to apply for a work permit.
III – Residence permits in France
The criteria for obtaining
British nationals already residing in France who wish to apply for a residence permit will in principle have to justify that they are in one of the following situations:
- Engaged in an employed or self-employed activity or registered as a jobseeker,
- Having sufficient resources for oneself and one’s family, as well as health insurance,
- Studying or undergoing vocational training, and having health insurance,
- Be a family member of a British national settled in France before December 31st 2020 who has a right of residence.
British nationals residing legally in France before the end of the transition period and who have been present in France for more than 5 years will have access to a permanent residence permit for a period of 10 years.
British nationals residing legally in France before the end of the transition period and who have been present for less than 5 years will obtain a 5-year permit depending on their situation.
British nationals arriving in France from January 1rst 2020 who have no family ties with a British national benefiting from the agreement will be able to obtain a residence permit only on the basis of the provisions of ordinary law.
Persons already holding a permanent residence card issued in their former capacity as EU citizens will automatically benefit from the exchange of this document for a permanent residence card “withdrawal agreement”.
The agreement also provides for specific arrangements for access to this card in certain situations (pensioners, incapacity for work, etc.).
For British nationals seeking employment two situations should be considered:
- If the job seeker has already worked in France, he will be issued a residence permit valid for 5 years,
- If he enters France to look for work and has never worked in France, he will be issued an APS (temporary residence permit), valid for 6 months and renewable once (if he can prove that he is actually looking for work and that he has a real chance of being hired within a reasonable period of time).
Residence permit applications
All the steps must be carried out on the Internet, by means of tele-procedures. It is also possible to contact the public service houses (maisons de service au public) that are available throughout France. To make an application it is necessary to send a photographed or scanned copy of the passport as well as one or more other additional documents depending on your situation (follow this link).
When the online request is validated, a confirmation is sent by email with a registration acknowledgement number. Once the file has been processed, an e-mail is sent by the Prefecture’s services to fix an appointment at the Prefecture to finalise the application (receipt of the photograph and taking of biometric fingerprints). The residence permit will then be sent to the applicant’s home by post.
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