We left the UK almost two years ago to the day, running from the island I had called home for my entire life. With the cataclysmic din of the Brexit vote still ringing in our ears our departure was not entirely the celebration we had hoped it would be. Instead of starting a new chapter full of hope and excitement our hearts were heavy with uncertainty. If we set up our new home, if we find what we are looking for, for how long will it last? Will our rights be lost, taken away? Not knowing, not having anywhere to look for or find the answers, was a huge burden on our shoulders during this time.
Aside from introducing uncertainty to our move, the Brexit vote has taken it’s toll in other ways. First it made the period from June to September incredibly frought emotionally. One of my parents (the insolent and Daily Mail reading one) voted FOR Brexit, which was the most fucking stupid thing she’s ever done given exactly one half of her family was planning to go and live within the EU in the six months that followed. In my opinion. Maybe it was some wierd passive-agressive thing where she didn’t want us to go and thought we’d be forced to stay if the UK left the EU? Who knows. Or maybe she thinks the 1950s were some sort of glorious hay-day (washing machines? fridges?!!) and has forgotten about things like outside toilets, caravan holidays in bognor, and tinned spam.
Whatever her reasons, “her decision” (nothing at all to do with Daily Mail brainwashing, of course) to vote the way she did caused a huge upheaval. Never in my life have I felt such rage towards my parents. And never before have I wanted to not talk to them – for weeks. Like so many other families who experienced similar fall outs, we’ve managed to move on but what’s left is a punctured relationship that I hadn’t realised was broken until it was. Now we’re here I think I miss them less than I would if Brexit hadn’t happened. I don’t feel particularly inclined to visit and when they come here it’s more for the kids. I feel apart from them in a way I didn’t before. I don’t care that they think they know better (“We remember how it was before. This isn’t what we voted for!”) As far as I’m concerned they have sold my family and the future of their grandchildren down the river. Part of me looks forward to them being stuck in a 4-hour immigration queue when they visit. If they’re allowed to. If they can afford to. C’est la vie.
Which brings me to the impact on the pound. When we first floated the idea of moving here, staring into estate agents windows 10 years before, the pound was riding high. I think at one point it was 1.5 euros to the pound. Maybe it was more? I don’t remember (and prefer not to think about it.) That would have been awesome. But thanks to Brexit , and in large part also due to the prediction that Remain would sneak through (social media echo chamber, anyone?) we didn’t rush to change our money from sterling to euros before the vote. Big mistake. In the days after we frantically set up a euro account and transferred all our money. That in itself was incredibly stressful: we had an “incident” with the bank where they submitted multiple buy orders on our behalf because when the first transction didn’t show on our account (we tried to do it online) we called and made the order – as it turns out again. We managed to get that sorted out but not without a huge amount of stress.
Given the situation, we got a pretty good rate by today’s standards, at least. It’s scraping the barrel compared to the rate both before the vote and in years past which means we’re not in such a strong financial position as we hoped. Hey ho, it is what it is. We think about from time to time (like often) but what’s done is done. (Thanks, Mum!)
Then there’s the time pressure. All eyese on the 31st March 2019! What will happen then? If we’d come any other time – what’s Brexit? – we’d still have a whole lot to do but the pressure would be significantly less. We’d just be here, as is our right, happy and relaxed, just enjoying our time here, making a life. With Brexit looming it all feels like a very different proposition. We both feel a sense of urgency. Buy or build a house? Urgent. Set up and run a business (or two)? Urgent. Learn French? Urgent. Integrate? Urgent. Pay tax and be recognised as someone worthy of French citizenship in future? Urgent. The fact that we may run out of money sooner adds urgency to the urgency.
We’ve largely coped with the pressure we feel by focussing entirely on the things we can control and ignoring completely those we can’t. That’s why I’ve not read the news since we came. When people try to talk to me about the news, la, la, la, I can’t hear you (mature). Anything to do with Brexit brings me out in interchangeably rage and crippling despair. Instead we’ve been busying ourselves, learning the language (slow progress but progress nonentheless), setting up a business, registering for a carte vitale, registering the car, submitting our first tax return, paying our taxes – and so on.
All that doesn’t sound like much but anything admin here is a real mind fuck. Seriously, it can take a week or a month to complete a task that in the UK it would take me a day or a week max. That’s partly because the French system is paperwork intensive and also because of the language barrier. Fitting that in around childcare, school runs, client projects, and networking to find new clients – oh, and sometimes sleeping. Add to that searching for land or a house, trapsing around the countryside looking at houses we can’t afford because, well, Brexit.
So now, just when I feel like we’ve almost got on top of the admin and I can finally focus on work so that we can start to relieve some of the financial pressure and maybe even justify a day snowboarding this winter, there’s a noise from the Internet telling me I, we, need to apply for a carte de sejour otherwise we might lose our access to healthcare, be deported, or whatever. I read all this on a Facebook group, Remain In France Together, some time ago and had to turn their updates off because it was wreaking havoc with my blood pressure! The general consensus was that because no-one knew what we should or shouldn’t do, whether Brexit would happen or not, and whether that meant we could stay or we’d be unceremoniously chucked into the channel on April 1st, the best we could do now is something, anything, and there was always the option to PANIC!!! Wait and see seemed to be off the table.
Which is fine if you have nothing else to do all day and feel the need to do something to justify your existence, but I am already 12 hours short of the time I need to do all the things I need to do as it is. Stressing out about Brexit? Running around to the prefecture with my It’s Your Life style dossier of bills, birth certificates (officially translated at a cost of 100 euros, thank you very much) and all the rest of it, then finding a time to actually go to the office that doesn’t clash with school, creche, work, etc. Hah, you have to be joking.
So what to do? I read another blog recently which just about sums it up, and I quote:
What if, post Brexit, you need a special type of card? A card that isn’t a Carte De Sejour but a card that is for someone who was here as an EU citizen but then they weren’t. Just like all the EU residents in the UK. So, if I apply for a Carte De Sejour – it could transpire that I need a different card and what a waste of time that would have been #wails.
What if, they all agree, we don’t need any card for residents pre 2019. Or you just have a card issued that says you don’t need a card, as you were here before you needed a card. It does make sense you just have to re-read it.
Nail On Head.
That said, I have done some reading about it – today, in fact. Maybe it is a good idea? YOu see, it’s confusing! There was a Government statement about this the other day, which I thought was reassuring. Except the people in the RIFT group assure me (and everyone else of the not-panicking variety) that that very sensible statement is only valid if (big if) an agreement is reached. Because I was struggling to cope with people online telling me what my own eyes were sure was a real thing complete with dates and everything, I decided to email the consulate in Paris, who pretty much told me the same thing as the Goverment. But RIFT (again) assure me that the consulate are also wrong (apparently they’ve now admitted it – to them, as in RIFT) that they, the consulate, mean only in the event of an agreement being reached. So what happens if an agreement isn’t reached? And here we go, around we go, again, again, again. No-one knows – and I Hate That.
So for now, no carte de sejour. If I get the willies about it I may just throw caution to the wind and make an appointment anyway. What the hell, eh? I don’t want to miss out on the ultimate Brexit experience! They say there’s a three-month waiting list, so that will give me plenty of time to gather the necessary paper work or follow the latest news and decide whether it’s necessary at all. Grrr. Fucking Brexit.