Well, the referendum result was a surprise for many people, including us. Assuming that Britain does indeed exit the European Union (which at this moment is far from certain), there are significant implications for us and lots of other Christian workers from the UK living and working in EU countries.
I tend to discount politicians’ promises that people like us will not be affected, since in reality the normal rules and laws take over. If there are any special provisions, they are, I think, likely to be short-term only.
So a major thing is that if/when the UK is no longer part of the EU, we will need visas to live here. The major thing is what’s called a carte de sejour, a residence permit. They can last from 1 to 10 years before they need to be renewed. The process of getting one involves a lot of paperwork and can be frustratingly difficult, depending on where exactly you live in France (some areas process them faster than others). It is a major headache, not at all trivial.
After living here for 5 continuous years, we could apply for French citizenship, but that would be post-Brexit. Both the UK and France allow dual nationality, so we wouldn’t lose our UK citizenship.
Another possibility is to obtain citizenship of another EU country. For example, I have an Irish grandmother so could apply for Irish citizenship… if we could find out if her birth was properly registered in Ireland (which it might not have been, it appears).
Another thing to think of is our driving licences. As EU citizens, we can use our UK licences in France for as long as we like. When we cease to become EU citizens we can’t drive on our UK licences (for more than a year) but might be able to exchange them for French licences. I hope we don’t have to take French driving tests!
Then there are savings and property and other financial matters. Should we keep these in the UK, or not? Should we sell our property in the UK (which was intended to provide rental income). Moving money from the UK to France is likely to become more expensive. What about UK pensions?
Please pray for wisdom about all these decisions for us and many others in similar positions.
Is the EU perfect? Of course not! But the benefits it provides really are very substantial, not least to the work of advancing God’s kingdom.
However, we all need to remember that nothing, but nothing, is ever a surpise to God: He is sovereign and He has a plan already worked out. Also, as Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi in the midst of their own turmoil:
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)
Whatever happens in our earthly countries of residence or origin, our real home is elsewhere!