We are so used to being able to live and work where we like in Europe it is difficult to grasp that this could all change. Even harder for those thousands of British children who have grown up in France but who may now not be able work in France, as well as British resident teenagers who have dreams of working abroad.
Everything depends on what level of freedom of movement Britain allows post-Brexit. If the new prime minister opts to stay in the single market they will likely be obliged to accept some free movement. But it is exactly this free movement – the right of EU nationals to work in the UK – that prompted so many Brexiteers to vote Leave. It will be difficult for a new prime minister to ignore this.
If the government chooses to impose work permit restrictions on EU citizens working in Britain, it is likely that other EU countries will retaliate and it will become more difficult for British expats to work in France. And if, for example, the UK bars eastern Europeans from working in the UK, countries like France and Germany could make things difficult for British workers in solidarity with the countries affected.
British expats may, for example, be asked to apply for Blue Cards. The equivalent of the US Green Card system, the Blue Card is a work-and-residence permit for non-EU/EEA (single market) nationals. British expats could also be subject to the rule that non-EU nationals can only be hired if no suitable EU candidate has been found.
It is also possible, if Britain leaves the single market and negotiations with individual countries on migration start, that expats of working age may no longer be eligible to claim out of work benefits or could face being sent home if they fail to find work within a certain time limit.
All of this depends on how flexible Britain is during Brexit negotiations. Unless Britain accepts some freedom of movement in order to stay in the single market, British expats will be in the same position as, say, Americans, Australians or any other non-EU nationals.
It is understandable for countries to want to protect their own workers – this, again, is partly what the Leave vote was about. And France has form on this. A few years ago there was an outcry when France tried to ban British ski instructors from working in the Alps, insisting that they did not have French qualifications. The European intervened, but had it been post-Brexit this would not have been possible. And now, remember, France is under pressure from Europe to cut her own unemployment levels.
If you have been living in France, legally, for five years you can apply for permanent residence which will protect your right to work in France.
If you have a job that is only open to EU nationals you should think about applying for French citizenship.
Children who have grown up in France should also consider applying for French citizenship to keep their right to work in France or elsewhere in the EU.