Report met several times with Sir Peter Ricketts during his tenure as Ambassador to France (2012-2016). Now Lord Ricketts, he keeps a keen interest in France and Brexit, which seemed distant and improbable when we met in 2013 and he said “yes [we] never left, there would be enormous consequences in all kinds of fields, including for the British abroad â.
Leaving in 2016, he was optimistic that Prime Minister David Cameron could negotiate reforms to keep the UK in the EU, saying: ‘I don’t like the term Brexit because the idea is’ non-Brexit ‘. We are working very hard with the French, who would much prefer that we stay.
He spoke to Oliver Rowland on October 18, the day after an EU summit dinner that was previously supposed to be the deadline for a UK / EU exit deal to be ready – but that left things stalled with just a few weeks of negotiations. left to postpone an exit without a chord.
Lord Ricketts, speaking of the stalemate in the Brexit talks as a no-deal scenario seemed more possible than ever, said he was disappointed.
âOverall, the government was ill-prepared and failed to pull itself together. We barely had a negotiation and had no sort of plan for dealing with Northern Ireland and no clear agreement on what the future relationship would be due to divisions within the cabinet.
“But I do not despair and think that we are more likely than not to come to an agreement to put ourselves in a transition period to work out the details during this, although I have all sympathy for the British in France who worry about uncertainties.
‘A crash without a deal would be so bad for the UK, UK citizens in Europe and all EU countries that in the end I think a settlement would be found, but that could leave a lot of detail behind very vague for the future. “
Lord Ricketts said recent suggestions that the transition period could be extended beyond 2020 were helpful. Much remains to be agreed, including future trade relations and police and counterterrorism cooperation, he said. âIt’s controversial in British politics, but if it takes two or two and a half years to sort out all the details, better.
“This will make a smooth transition more likely and avoid enormous hardships and disruptions to daily life, supply chains and transport links.”
He added that if the deal goes through he believes the rights of Britons should be preserved, except for those in need of free movement to other EU states. However, problems would arise for those who wish to relocate in the future.
“If we [the UK] decide not to give any privileges to EU citizens, EU countries will not give any to the British. There we are in the unknown.
If there is no deal, the British would remain dependent on the decisions of the countries they live in – France has said that could depend on how the UK acts towards the French.
“This is one of the millions of reasons why a no deal would be a terrible result, because it would void the deal made to protect the rights of those already there.” But my feeling is that even if that happened, both sides would still say “we need French citizens here” and “the British are making a big contribution in France and we are not going to tear up their rights and expel them all or give back the difficult life for them ‘.
âI can’t promise it and there are unknowns, but I think the rights of those who are installed and integrated – will be protected in all scenarios. It’s other categories – like newcomers – where the problems would be.
Asked about the administrative difficulties encountered by the British in proving their legal residency status, he said: âThe French simply did not have the structures. So far no one has gone for a residence permit because it wasn’t necessary, and suddenly tens of thousands of people are applying. It’s the same in the UK with the Home Office inundated with âsettled statusâ requests. Systems are overwhelmed with people trying to consolidate their status – understandably.
“This is only part of the unforeseen damage caused by Brexit. I deeply believe that Brexit was not the right thing to do and British citizens in France are one of the victims.
âThe French don’t try to be picky and I sympathize with people in this situation and although I think that in practice those who are already in France will be taken care of, I understand why they want the best documents and a proof of their residence and status.
“This is one of the many uncertainties brought about by Brexit and one of the reasons why it is better to strike a deal.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks we can find a way to close the circle on things like Northern Ireland so that we can have a deal and a long transition period.”
Asked why the UK has not released a ‘no deal’ planning document on expatriate rights, such as the revaluation of pensions, UK payments for retiree health care (S1) and the right to export disability benefits, he replied: I know, but they may just be overwhelmed with all the technical details that a no-deal would raise.
âThere are so many issues to think about and the Brits abroad are, I’m sure, on the list somewhere but clearly not at the top.
âI think the British should raise it with all channels possible to make sure the government is focused on this.
âWhenever I get the chance in the House of Lords, I will stand up for the rights of the British in Europe and remind the government of it, but I’m just a small voice. Everyone must continue to demand that their cases be considered to ensure the government keeps them on their radar screen. “