As the politicians prepare to launch their EU in/out campaigns in April, there is of course speculation about the effect a UK exit from the EU could have on owning a property in France.
If Britain does vote to leave the EU then the government will have to negotiate the terms of the withdrawal with the EU and individual countries, and this could take a long time. However, the Vienna Convention states that British expats now have ‘acquired rights’ in the country they live in and they would hold on to these rights in the event of a Brexit.
Here are the answers (as far as we understand them) to some of the questions that we’ve been asked on a regular basis.
Would a Brexit prevent me from buying a house in France?
In short, no. Plenty of non-EU citizens, from countries such as America and Australia, own property and live in France so if Britain left the EU, British people would still be able to buy property and move to France.
Would a Brexit restrict my ability to travel to France?
Again, implications of a Brexit would likely be minimal for travel to and from France. It is possible (although highly unlikely) that UK citizens will have to apply for visas or the carte de séjour but this is a worst case scenario.
What effect would a Brexit have on my French tax bill?
If Britain does decide to leave the EU then this should have little effect on the tax a British expat in France has to pay. The double tax treaty agreed between Britain and France would be unaffected by a Brexit and if Britain decides to remain part of the EEA (European Economic Area) then tax treatment wouldn’t change because the same rules apply to EEA residents as EU residents.
Will I lose healthcare benefits?
One of the major areas of concern for retired British expats in France is whether the NHS will continue to pay for their healthcare via the S1 form. Expats who work in France and pay social charges are entitled to the same state healthcare as French residents however, retired British expats have their healthcare paid for by the NHS. It is uncertain whether this will change if Britain leaves the EU.
Those who visit France but are not resident are currently entitled to access the French healthcare system for free using the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and there are some concerns this would no longer be the case in the event of a Brexit.
However if Britain retains its EEA membership then this should result in the retention of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and thus access to healthcare at the same rate as a local.
There is a precedent for this – Iceland, Lichenstein and Norway all have the option of belonging to the EHIC scheme, even though they aren’t part of the EU because they are members of the EEA.
If you have lived in France for three years then you can apply for French residency and this would give you access to all the same rights and benefits as French citizens.
How would a Brexit affect the GBP / Euro exchange rate?
Currency exchange rates are notoriously volatile and any news or speculation can cause them to rocket or drop. Since the date for the EU referendum was set the GBP/EUR rate dropped to a 14-month low of 1.26, although it has since risen again to 1.28. There is the possibility that a Brexit from the EU could cause the value of the pound to drop against the euro. A good way to safeguard against currency fluctuations is to forward buy your currency at a fixed rate.
If you have any questions at all about arranging a fixed currency rate, planning a mortgage application for a house in France or questions about the referendum and buying french property in general, just give us a call.