As leaders dither, we answer your Brexit questions

WILL a Brexit mean the EU inheritance regulations no longer apply to Britons in France or UK residents with property in France?

No. Legal experts have told Connexion that the Brexit should have no effect on the operation of the new regulation, which allows Britons, whether resident in France or the UK, to opt for the law of their nationality to apply to their whole estate, including property in France.

WHAT will happen to our UK pensions? Will a UK ‘government’ pension be taxed by France now?

There is no reason to assume that a Brexit would change anything with regard to the UK/France Double Tax Treaty, which means taxation of different kinds of pension should not change. This, however, does not mean pensions will not be frozen for expats.

IF healthcare is not paid for by the UK, can we, as pensioners, change to the French system and pay a percentage of income to get cover?

Healthcare is a key issue which will have to be agreed in the UK’s exit negotiations with the EU, or through a separate bilateral agreement with France. If the UK does not agree to continue funding healthcare for pensioners in France (it currently only does so in the EEA) you might be entitled to join the French system under its ‘Puma’ scheme, which replaced the similar CMU and is intended to guarantee the right to healthcare to everyone who is a legal resident. Under this, people pay in at 8% of their income above a certain income level (currently €9,611).

However, depending on the exit agreements, the difficulty for some Britons may be proving their right of legal residence, especially if they have not been in France for long.

Those who have been here more than five years could argue they have acquired residence rights. If all else fails, private insurance may be an option.

COULD we take up Irish nationality to keep our EU citizenship rights?

Taking Irish citizenship would be one option for retaining EU citizenship and rights, especially if you have not been in France long enough to apply for French nationality.

Compared to taking French nationality, it is a simpler process but, if you are weighing up the two, you may feel it would be more beneficial to become a citizen of the country you live in.

People with parents or grandparents born in the island of Ireland – the Republic or Northern Ireland – are eligible. You can check whether your family links are close enough by clicking here

The process can be done by post or via the Irish Embassy in Paris. Proof of eligibility is required but there are no tests involved. The first step is to join the Irish Foreign Births Register.

You will need your birth certificate and birth certificates of those through whom you are claiming citizenship (and any relevant marriage certificates). See: tinyurl.com/register-Ireland. Once registered you can apply for an Irish passport.

WOULD the Council of Europe’s Social Security Convention 1972 protect Britons’ rights in France? I believe if a British person settles in any of the Council of Europe states they can receive pensions from the UK or another member state and be entitled to social security and healthcare provided the member countries have ratified the convention.

Law professor Jean-Philippe Lhernould from Poitiers University said that the UK did not ratify the convention so it is not concerned by it, even though it will most likely remain part of the Council of Europe (which is not an EU body).

However, it did ratify the European Interim Agreements on Social Security, which preceded the convention but, compared to the guarantees given by EU coordination rules, their mechanisms are “rudimentary”, said prof Lhernould.

He added: “The interim agreements are a response to the aim, which came out of International Labour Organisation [a UN agency] agreements, of ensuring that all of the signatory countries’ nationals receive equal treatment with regard to national social security regulations.

“They aim to allow nationals of all the contracting states to benefit from bilateral or multilateral agreements concluded between two or more of the states.

“While these agreements can be enforced against the UK – after checking for any opt-outs or exceptions – it is not certain that a member of the public could invoke them directly against a social security body in a national court.”

I AM a retired civil servant living in France and have concerns about healthcare rights. I am considering taking French nationality. At the age of 80 could I be accepted? And would I then have full access to French medical care?

There is nothing in the rules barring people from taking French nationality based on age, although we have been told that sometimes applications from pensioners are looked on less favourably if all their income derives from outside France.

This is because it may be taken as suggesting their ‘centre of financial interests’ - one of the tests for permanent residency - is not France.

One advantage to applying at a later age is that you would not have to sit a language test. Your ability to hold a conversation in French would instead be tested as part of the interview you would have at your local prefecture.

All French nationals who live in France (for more than three months) are entitled to healthcare under the ‘Puma’ system, which, like the CMU which it replaced, may involve paying a subscription at a percentage of your income if this is above a certain level.

WHAT happens to non-EU people living in France when they go on holiday to another EU country? Do they have to take out medical insurance? It will be the same for Britons after a Brexit we assume.

One of the advantages of EU membership is the ability to use healthcare while visiting other EU countries on the same basis as residents of that country, using the EHIC/CEAM card.

Whether or not such an arrangement would still apply between the UK and EU after a Brexit would depend on the exit negotiations - especially as regards the rights of Britons in France on visits back to the UK.

When it comes to visiting other EU countries, residents of France who are non-EU nationals are still allowed to have a French CEAM card to use if they are in the French health system [whether or not all British expats will have the right to be in the system after the Brexit, is, of course, another matter].

They cannot use them in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, however in these countries if they keep receipts for treatment paid for they can be reimbursed by their health caisse on return to France.

Anyone not entitled to a CEAM would have to take the same precautions as if travelling outside the EU – eg. they would have to take out travel insurance that includes medical cover.

WE WISH to apply for French citizenship but are concerned about the high cost of having all our English-language documents translated and ‘legalised’. Why do official documents need to be ‘legalised’ - is there not an exemption clause between the UK and France for this?

Certain documents originating in foreign countries need not only to be translated by a sworn translator (traducteur assermenté), as is required for British ones, but also to be ‘legalised’ or in some cases validated by a process called an ‘apostille’.

However there are agreements in place that British documents are exempt from this. If you have documents coming from other countries then you can get more information on obtaining the necessary validation from your embassy. This is required as official confirmation that the format of the document is acceptable.

This link shows which country’s documents are dispensed from this www.tinyurl.com/apostille-info

D = dispense - the lower case letter after the D relates to the reason for the dispensation. Column I relates to documents such as birth, marriage or death certificates etc.

IF Britons in France are allowed to stay - as hopefully will be the case - what will happen to our more general right as EU citizens to free movement within the rest of the EU?

As with many matters, this will be up for negotiation in the Brexit talks, however the UK appears reluctant to offer full free movement rights to EU citizens to live and work in the UK, so Britons may no longer have this right for the countries of the EU generally.

The short answer being that this right may be lost and, say, a British expat in France wants to then move to Spain they would be in the same situation as any other non-EU citizen.

Is social charge exemption for pensions under threat?

UK pensions are exempt from French social charges on the grounds that British pensioners are generally not a burden on the French social security system – and the social charges go towards funding this. However a Brexit could throw this into doubt.

The notes to the 2047 foreign income declaration form state that the pensioner must not represent “a burden of any kind on a French state health insurance scheme”. This can typically be proved by showing a copy of the S1, held by people who are state pensioners of other EU states, who pay for their healthcare in France.

Post-Brexit this may stop for Britons, especially if the UK does not opt for the EEA option, such as held by Norway or at least EFTA (European Free Trade Area) membership like the Swiss. As these would require accepting free movement to work this is uncertain. Whether an alternative reciprocal arrangement will be agreed, with the whole EU or certain states such as France, remains to be seen. Barring that, Britons may be allowed to join the ‘Puma’ state health scheme, but in which case they would probably be deemed ‘a burden’, or otherwise they may have to have private insurance (in which case the exemption might be retained).

As with many areas, this remains to be clarified as the UK’s relationship with the EU is thrashed out.

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