Mythbuster: The facts about the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement

Mythbuster: The facts about the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement
Photo: AFP
Withdrawal Agreement, transition period, trade deal - it's all very confusing when it comes to Brexit. Here citizens' rights expert Kalba Meadows of France Rights busts some of the biggest myths around the subject.

MYTH: We don’t yet know which of our rights will be covered and we’ll all have to wait until the end of the transition period to find out, so there’s no point in bothering about any of it yet.

FACT: The Withdrawal Agreement, which is now in effect, sets out clearly which rights will be covered and how they will be covered in all these main areas: residence, healthcare, pensions and social security, working rights and professional qualifications and future family reunion.

Like all EU countries, France must implement these rights in full, and will have to incorporate them into its own national legislation. It can’t downgrade your rights from those contained in the Withdrawal Agreement, now or in the future, or impose any extra conditions to obtain or retain your rights. So we do in fact already have certainty about our future rights (although some of the administrative processes in France are still to be confirmed), and we can already make plans for the future based on what the Withdrawal Agreement says.

READ ALSO The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – what is it and does it cover me?

The full ratification documents of the Withdrawal Agreement being delivered to the European Parliament in January 2020. Photo: AFP

MYTH: The Withdrawal Agreement only covers us until the end of the transition period (currently December 31st 2020).

FACT: Your rights will be guaranteed by the Withdrawal Agreement for the whole of your lifetime as long as you meet the conditions and remain resident in France (see this page for the amount of time you’re allowed to be outside France without losing your rights). 

MYTH: We’ll have to wait until December 31st 2020 anyway as the Withdrawal Agreement will become null and void if the negotiations on trade and the future relationship break down and there is ‘no deal’ at the end of transition.

FACT: If no agreement on the future relationship is reached, the UK would automatically default to trading on WTO terms with the EU.

But the Withdrawal Agreement itself would not be affected; now that it has come into effect, it remains in effect even if there’s no agreement on trade and the future relationship.

The rights that it includes for us remain guaranteed and cannot be removed even in the absence of a trade/future relationship agreement at the end of the transition period. Our rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are guaranteed for our lifetimes whatever happens with the future negotiations as long as we continue to fulfill the conditions under it.

These conditions depend on the rights in question eg broadly the conditions and personal scope for residence and other rights are different to those for social security rights. So a failure to conclude a trade deal might be a 'no deal' situation for the UK, but not for us.

MYTH: The Withdrawal Agreement only covers people who were legally resident before Brexit day, January 31st 2020.

FACT: Anyone who is legally resident before the end of the transition period – currently set as December 31st 2020 – will have their rights guaranteed by the Withdrawal Agreement – this includes those who move during 2020.

So for those hoping to move to France (or another EU country) there is still a window during which you can do this – you haven’t missed the boat! Remember that being legally resident is more than just having a foot on the soil – you need to meet the conditions that apply to your situation and in order to successfully apply for a residence card you’ll have to provide evidence to show that you meet them. You can find out more about this here

TELL US: Have you experienced any problems with French officials since Brexit?

MYTH: A future far right government in France could decide to dispense with the Withdrawal Agreement and downgrade our rights.

FACT: The Withdrawal Agreement is an international treaty with the force of international law, and as such it trumps national law.

This means that France can't downgrade the rights you hold under the Withdrawal Agreement either now, by wrongly transposing it into national law, or in the future. It also has direct effect, which means that if France were to implement the Withdrawal Agreement incorrectly now, or adopt legislation contrary to the Withdrawal Agreement in future, citizens could rely directly on the provisions of the agreement before the courts.

And of course any dispute would also ultimately be subject to the jurisdiction of the European courts.

MYTH: I already hold a carte de séjour so none of this concerns me.

FACT: Every British citizen living in France will have to apply for a new status and carte de séjour under the Withdrawal Agreement, whether you currently hold a carte de séjour or not. In brief, if you hold a valid carte de séjour permanent you will be able to exchange this for a new card, while everyone else will need to make an application. The new cards will all carry the mention ‘accord de retrait’. 

Kalba Meadows works with British in Europe and France Rights, groups which work to protect the rights of British people living in the EU. Find out more here.

For more information on driving, healthcare, travel and pets after Brexit, head to our Preparing for Brexit section.


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