France is likely to extend its June 30 application deadline for new post-Brexit residence permits, which could allow thousands of British citizens an additional three months to secure local health care, employment and other rights.
The prefecture of the Côtes d’Armor Britain said on Thursday that the deadline for British citizens legally residing in France before December 31 last year had been extended to September 30 and that the French government’s website for applications would remain open until that date.
It was not immediately clear why the prefecture had made the announcement, which was not confirmed by either the French government or the British Foreign Office (FCDO).
However, sources suggested that the delay, which activists have been calling for for a long time, and which follows a similar extension from the Netherlands last month, will likely be officially announced by the French Interior Ministry soon.
According to the British embassy, 135,000 Britons in France have applied for post-Brexit residency out of an estimated population of 148,300, leaving at least 13,300 at risk of losing access to healthcare, pensions, property rentals, jobs and mortgages.
Officials say that because France does not require EU citizens to register as residents, the actual number may be much higher. They are also more difficult to contact than in countries, such as the Netherlands, with a long-standing mandatory registration.
The June 30 deadline remains in effect in three other EU states: Latvia, Luxembourg and Malta. According to the latest figuresThey had applied for 8,300 of 13,600 Britons in Malta, 3,600 of 5,300 in Luxembourg and 420 of 1,200 in Latvia.
Under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, UK citizens who were legally residing in one of the 27 EU member states on December 31 last year are eligible for permanent residence, protecting their basic rights.
Fourteen countries, including Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy, opted for systems that automatically confer a new post-Brexit residency status on legally resident Britons, without risk of losing rights if any administrative deadline is missed.
The other 13 chose a constitutive system under which Brits must formally apply for a new residency status, including five (France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands) that initially set a June 30 deadline.
The FCDO and activists representing British residents in the EU have urged people to apply and lobbied for deadlines to be extended, warning that many are at risk of falling online.
The British in Europe campaign group has said it is concerned about various categories of British citizens in the EU, including older people who have lived on the continent for decades, perhaps married to EU citizens, who may not realize they must act.
Similarly, some younger people who were born and raised in an EU member state and now have spouses and children in the EU are so well integrated that they “just don’t consider themselves British,” the group says.
Other people who run the risk of losing their rights may be in residences; live “under the radar” and offline; or fearful of failing a possible minimum income test. Many of those with residence permits do not realize that they must be replaced by a post-Brexit version.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism