Brits in idyllic French village finally face up to Brexit

·3-min read

Since the United Kingdom left the EU for good on 31 December, the 150,000 or so Britons residing in France are having to adapt to a post-Brexit universe. The Dordogne region in southwest France is particularly popular and in the picturesque village of Eymet close to one in five residents is from the UK. Some newcomers arrived just in time.

The market on the narrow winding medieval streets of Eymet sells a host of French produce: foie gras, wild mushrooms and an array of cheeses. The many UK nationals who've made this village the most British in all of France, were drawn by a certain art de vivre.

"It’s such a lovely place, has a lovely feel. It does seem less stressful than the UK," Angela, who arrived here just three weeks ago, told RFI's Muriel Paradon. She admitted she wasn't "really sure how Brexit will affect us".

The biggest change since Brexit finally happened is that British citizens now need a 10-year residency permit (carte de séjour) in order to remain in France.

“We’ve got somebody here who’s helped us all the way through,” said Angela, “so we’re registered as residents. Our car’s being changed, our driving licence; we’re doing it all now so we should be OK."

Saddened by Brexit

Another change is that UK nationals now need visas if they want to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period. This is of major concern to Carlito who works in insurance in the City and divides his time between London and France.

"For me it’s about the loss of freedom of movement. It means that I won't be able to apply to European companies, whereas before Brexit I could just do that. People thought that they wanted an end to freedom of movement but actually it really meant they’ve lost opportunities. For me it’s a very sad thing that Brexit happened."

More red tape

One person every Brit in Eymet knows is Jane Patterson, owner of The Taste of Britain grocery store. Its shelves are packed with British delicacies like marmite, mature cheddar, digestive biscuits, bacon, tea bags, gravy granules and salt and vinegar crisps. Since the UK and EU struck a deal at the eleventh hour, Jane is relieved she won’t have to pay any additional taxes or import duties. But Brexit means there will be border checks and she expects that will have a knock on effect.

“I’m assuming what will change is the importation of food, more paperwork, maybe delays in getting the products through customs,” she reckoned. “And I’m assuming there may be an increase in costs somewhere along the line. I think prices may have to go up.”

Net contributors to the community

Not everyone is ground down by the red tape though. Alister and his wife recently fled the stress of London for the peace and quiet of Eymet.

“We came three weeks ago, just before Brexit. We’ve always wanted to buy a house in France so we made the step," he said. "We love this country, we’re going to work here, pay our taxes and contribute to the French economy. We’re happy to be here.”

Bernard Dumeige, Eymet's deputy mayor and an renowned antiques dealer, is hoping more UK nationals like Alister will continue coming because they contribute a good deal to the village.

“Having a lot of British residents has allowed us to renovate many houses in the village, houses that otherwise would have fallen into ruin,” he told RFI.

“British nationals open businesses and put their children in local school, they’re regular customers at the restaurants and bars so they really support the local economy.”