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Does the UK still attract French expats?

currency-newsDoes the UK still attract French expats?
Despite an iconic rivalry dating back centuries, the French have as much of a love affair with the UK as the Brits do with France. Some even refer to London as the ‘sixth biggest French city’ due to its population of around 350,000 French nationals.

Of course, the EU referendum has somewhat shaken that love affair. But the reasons many French expats fell in love with the UK will endure.

What drew French expats to the UK before Brexit?

There were many benefits to living in the UK that attracted French expats.

Entrepreneurs found Britain an alluring prospect. The UK offered a stronger labour market and much less regulation than back home. It was easier to set up a business and with less red tape companies were able to thrive, rather than being stifled by bureaucracy.

Almost 66% of French businesses in London in 2008 were operating in the financial services industry. Their employees could expect higher wages and higher bonuses than if they had stayed in France.

There used to be incentives on behalf of the UK government to attract skilled workers from France in the banking industry, offering benefits such as international pension plans and low taxes. Given that 58% of French expats cited professional reasons as their main motivation for moving abroad, it’s not surprising that this formula has worked well for the UK.

The UK also offers great education opportunities for expats and their children. The prestigious Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle teaches the French curriculum - en français, of course - which has allowed many French expats to put their children through an educational system that they know and trust.

How has the Brexit vote changed life for French expats?

The result of the Brexit referendum has left many expats worried about their future in the UK. However, with the EU having demanded that residency issues are settled before any trade talks can begin, it seems likely the British government is going to want to resolve this quickly and amicably.

Unfortunately, even if residency rights are secured and expats can continue living here visa and restriction free, many expats have reported feeling unwelcome in the UK following the vote for Brexit.

French expat Carol Grimes, who is based in Kent, told The Local; ‘I think now that Britain has voted, I may encounter people who would openly ask what I am doing in their country as they feel their views have been vindicated’.

French citizens who had been considering moving to the UK have been given more to think about. You’ll know how big an upheaval it can be moving overseas, so an extra layer of uncertainty may be just enough to encourage some of your fellow nationals not to join you in the UK.

Where else may French expats be tempted to move?

With Brexit making the UK a less attractive place to live, French expats may be tempted to relocate, or aspiring expats might redirect their attentions to a different destination.

Freedom of movement will keep the door open to dozens of other EU nations once Britain has left, so French citizens will still have plenty of choice. Germany is one of the top destinations already for French citizens; home to 114,000 of them as of 2015.

French citizens are also looking further afield, however. Canada - unsurprisingly - and the United States are both popular destinations for emigration, with around 100,000 people living in Canada as of 2015 and an InterNations survey conducted in 2016 showing that 8% of all French expats lived in the US.

Why is the UK still a great place for French citizens to relocate?

The referendum may have created some uncertainty, and some expats may be feeling unwelcome, but there are still many great reasons to move here.

For starters, the majority of people in the UK welcome expats with open arms and love the diversity and culture that they bring to their communities.

Even once the UK has left the EU, it’ll still continue to offer easy transport links back home.

The UK is focussed on protecting its key industries, so will still likely have a thriving financial centre, leading educational institutions and less regulatory burden than France.

Although weaker exchange rates can be a negative, it’s worth noting that Sterling’s current low makes it cheaper for French citizens to settle in the UK to begin with. It’ll be cheaper to buy property and more lucrative to transfer savings. This could help French expats put down stronger roots in the UK.

In short, the UK is still an appealing place. Both sides may be talking tough going into the negotiations, but their approach is likely to soften as an amicable agreement is in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.

The only thing you really have to worry about is that British food will remain the same whatever happens. Sorry about that!

Are you a French expat in the UK or thinking about moving there? Tell us what you think!
 
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