I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Roy’s, despite having to forego most of the barbecued lunch. There is nothing more pleasant than sitting out in the lovely September sun (temperatures high twenties but no humidity) just talking.
Sitting next to me was a Frenchman who arrived ranting about the imminent, mindless cutting down of mature trees in the village ‘place’ below. He sought advice from the Dutch (bigshot) European lawyer sitting on his other side. I picked up that there was little to do, as these small rural mayors and councillors may these days have relatively limited powers of governance, but exercise these autocratically. As one councillor said: “We consulted – what more do you want? Now it is our job to decide – and we are cutting the trees – they are too old.” The fact that the consultation gave rise to a big petition cut no ice.
On leaving the lunch I discovered that this man is the owner of the beautiful old family house below Roy’s much more modest dwelling. And indeed, his house looks over a backstream to the river Herault onto these trees.
The conversation moved on, as it so often does here, to Brexit and Europe. I overheard the Dutchman and Roy agreeing that Europe was in a very bad way both economically (pending disasters in Italy and maybe later France) and politically (with the upsurge of the populist right everywhere. The Dutchman was of the view that Germany should heed the views of the Scandinavian bloc and agree to compromises to keep the UK in Europe as a valuable political and economically.
His forecast as to what would happen to Brits in Europe was as uncertain as everybody else’s. I showed him an alarming article in the latest issue of an online magazine aimed at British expats in France, reporting that some officials are interpreting a hard Brexit as meaning pensioners like me would have all rights to healthcare cut off on 29 March next year.
His reaction was very much a lawyer’s: this should be fought in the courts on the basis that we long-term residents are covered by the principle of protection universelle maladie . But this legal right is qualified by your economic circumstances and in my case I would have to pay an additional 8% income tax.
I’m currently very much absorbed by this problem, as at last – after nearly three months waiting – I have received an email instructing me to attend an interview on Thursday at the Prefecture in Nimes to present my large dossier in support of my case for having a Carte de Séjour. Obtaining this carte is a prerequisite if I wish to continue and apply for French citizenship while retaining my British one). A growing number of commentators, including the British ambassador in Paris advise this to help strengthen our case next March.
The whole thing is a dreadful mess, philosophically, politically (regardless of inefficiencies and corruption in Brussels), economically and personally.