View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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The rush to move to France before the end of 2020

The first few weeks of this year have seen a huge surge of potential British buyers looking to purchase a house and move to France before the end of the Brexit transition phase. Thanks to the withdrawal agreement, as long as you are living full time in France before the end of the year, all your residency rights will be protected. In practice, this means that you need to have bought a property and moved in by the end of September at the latest in order to have three months’ worth of documentation proving residence in France before the transition phase ends.

This is causing a slight air of panic as buyers realize that they now really only have six months not only to find their dream house but to complete and move in. This is tight even for me as I usually take around eight weeks for a thorough property search before starting the negotiation process and Compromis stage which is another two to three weeks and it is then usually around a three-month process until completion.

On a more encouraging note, you can find a very reassuring open letter from President Macron on the Elysee website. I have copied it below for anyone interested.

As always, if you need help with your property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

Open letter from President Macron

Dear British friends,

Your country has just left the European Union, after 47 years of life together.

It is the result of the sovereign decision the British people expressed in the referendum of June 2016, a democratic choice France has always respected.

Yet I must also tell you, as an ally and, even more, as a friend and true European, how deeply sad I am at this departure. And I am thinking, today, of the millions of Britons – from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – who still feel deeply attached to the European Union. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of French citizens in the UK and British citizens in France who are wondering about their rights and their future: I assure them that we will protect them.

I must tell you, too, that this departure is a shock for Europeans. It is the first time a country has left the European community. The UK was not there when it took its first steps in 1950, but we owe it so much – Winston Churchill’s historic foresight, for a start. And since 1973, while our European relationships may at times have been turbulent, the UK has been a central player in the European project – particularly in building the single market –, a more influential player than the British have often themselves imagined.

This departure has to be a shock, because there is nothing trivial about it. We must understand the reasons for it and learn lessons from it. The rejection of a Europe which political leaders, in the UK and elsewhere, have too often blamed for all evils, to avoid having to deal with their own failures – that’s one reason. Another is, let’s acknowledge this, the consequence of a Europe seen as not effective enough, not protective enough, distant from the realities of daily life.

I am convinced therefore that Europe needs new momentum, in a world where the need for control, security and protection is stronger than ever. Perhaps you’ll tell me it is no longer your problem? I do not believe that for a minute, because the UK has no interest in a weak European Union. I fight every day, and will continue to do so, for this united, sovereign and democratic Europe, whose strength will make our continent strong.

In this respect, I know the feeling – however you voted in 2016 – that France was “tough” from the start of the Brexit negotiation. I wanted to defend the existential principles of the way the European Union functions: compliance with our rules within the single market, European unity, and stability in Ireland. These are not bureaucratic inflexibilities but the very foundations of the European edifice. But never has France or the French people – or, I think it is fair to say, any European people – been driven by a desire for revenge or punishment.

It is in this spirit of mutual respect and commitment to the European Union and with such powerful ties between our two countries that we must look to the future and build our new relationship. 

The British government wishes to move swiftly forward; we are ready for this. It is in our common interest to define as close and deep a partnership as possible in defence and security, and in police, judicial, environmental, scientific and cultural cooperation. At the same time let me be honest, as I have always been: ease of access to the European market will depend on the degree to which the European Union’s rules are accepted, because we cannot allow any harmful competition to develop between us.

More directly, I would like to begin a new chapter between our two countries, based on the strength of our unrivalled ties. This year we will celebrate the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s 18 June Appeal: the French know what they owe the British, who allowed our Republic to live. I am coming to London in June to award the city the Légion d’Honneur, in tribute to the immense courage of a whole country and people. Ten years on from the Lancaster House Agreement, we must deepen our defence, security and intelligence cooperation. I would also like Prime Minister Boris Johnson and I to draw on history to boldly build new, ambitious projects, as when the Channel Tunnel finally – physically – connected our two countries.

Dear British friends, you are leaving the European Union but you are not leaving Europe. Nor are you becoming detached from France or the friendship of its people. The Channel has never managed to separate our destinies; Brexit will not do so, either. 

 

 

 

New ‘waste not want not’ legislation introduced in France

France has approved new laws which came into force on February 11th to reduce waste and plastic and to increase recycling. These will gradually be introduced over the next three years. You can read the detail in French here: Loi relative à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire (law on the anti-waste and to a circular economy)

The new laws and deadlines are as follows (thanks to https://www.thelocal.fr for the detail)

January 1st, 2021

  • Throwing away non-hazardous waste that can be recycled (eg plastics, cardboard, green waste) will be gradually prohibited
  • Aggressive advertising will be prohibited outside of sales in an attempt to cut consumption
  • New single-use plastic products will be banned. This includes straws, stirrers, lids for takeaway cups, expanded polystyrene boxes (such as kebab boxes), steak sticks, balloon rods, plastic confetti and all objects made of oxodegradable plastic
  • Distributing free plastic bottles in companies will be prohibited
  • Drinks served in a reusable cup presented by the customer must be sold at a cheaper price
  • Large businesses of more than 400 m2 will have to provide reusable containers (free or paying)
  • Bulk retailers will have to accept containers brought in by consumers
  • Distributing promotional gifts in mailboxes will be prohibited
  • A network of drinking water fountains will be created in an attempt to cut the use of plastic bottles

July 1st, 2021

  • Bringing your own reusable containers will be possible in restaurants and takeaways

January 1st, 2022

  • Plastic tea bags, plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg and plastic toys distributed free of charge in fast-food restaurants will be banned
  • Establishments that are open to the public will have to provide a water fountain
  • Plastic-wrapped newspapers or magazines will be prohibited
  • Labels on fruit and vegetables will be prohibited

January 1st, 2023

  • Disposable dishes in fast-food restaurants will be forbidden for meals served on site.
  • Printing and distributing receipts and credit card slips, unless specifically requested by the customer, will be prohibited

There will also be measures introduce to improve information for consumers about the environmental impact of their purchases. These include;

  • Improving information on the qualities and environmental characteristics of products that generate waste;
  • Providing information on the reparability of certain electrical and electronic equipment (such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners or lawnmowers);
  • Providing information on the availability or unavailability of spare parts needed to repair electrical and electronic equipment and furniture
  • Destroying (either by incineration or sending to landfill) unsold new non-food items (clothing, shoes, cosmetics) will be prohibited in order to encourage their reuse or recycling
  • Instructions for reuse and re-use (especially of plastic bottles) will be put in place

Although it’s not included in the legislation, environmental activists have been campaigning to have events such as ‘Black Friday’ banned in France, arguing that it encourages needless consumerism and contributes to environmental damage.

 

Buying a house in France post-Brexit

We are still none the wiser as to the situation and exact details for Brits (and British passport holders) moving to France post Brexit. All we know is that, with the transition agreement, our rights as EU citizens will still be in place until 31st December 2020 and, if you move over to France permanently before this date, you will be entitled to apply for a residents’ permit.

After that, for the moment at least, the UK is talking about a points style immigration system for immigrants to the UK so it is feasible that European countries will introduce a similar system for British immigrants. This is likely to mean that Brits and people with a British passport planning to move to France to live and work permanently will have to show that their income is at least the same as the minimum wage in France which is currently €18,250 per year per person. It is probable that applications to live in France will have to be made to the French embassy in the UK.

If you are planning to buy a holiday house in France, regulations will be the same as for any non-EU national which means that you will be allowed to spend 90 days maximum in France in any 180-day time period.

So, for those of you planning a permanent move to France, if your timing allows, it would make sense to make the move before the end of the transition period, 31st December this year because, thanks to the withdrawal agreement, your rights as EU citizens will still be in place. After this time, everything is still to be agreed.

For more information, take a look at: https://brexit.gouv.fr/sites/brexit/accueil/vous-etes-britannique-en/droit-au-sejour-en.html

If you need help finding your home in France, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

The architecture of happiness – can a house make you happy?

Recently I was reading a book on how architecture can affect mood, feelings and mental health in general (and hence also physical health). It was both fascinating and also makes perfect sense.

I see a huge number of houses of different styles, structure and age and I know how each house has its own personality and it is noticeable how different houses can make you feel a certain way. I also see this all the time with my clients when they are on viewings with me – a house can tick every box but, if they don’t get that good gut reaction, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ feeling, then the house is not right for them. Likewise, a house that does not seem to meet all their criteria but makes them smile as soon as they cross the threshold, renders everything else irrelevant if it is the one. It turns out that choosing a house is just as illogical on the surface as choosing a partner! But actually, the subconscious is powerful and often knows better than our analytical brain what will make us happy.

According to Alain de Botton, philosopher and author, “Space and architecture are really a division of mental health” He is talking about architecture on a grand scale but it follows that our home and everyday surroundings can influence our mood and hence our happiness. And while we cannot do much to change the public architecture around us, we can have some control over our personal space, our home and how we live in it.

Of course, there is no one ‘architecture of happiness’ and it would be wrong to say that in the right house, our lives would be perfect but, as Mr de Botton points out; “ for most of our lives, “we’re balanced between hope and despair … and it’s in that state when the built environment can have an influence on our mood.”

So, when starting out on your property search, by all means draw up a check list and I will make sure that those criteria are met when you come out on your viewing trip. But also make sure that you leave some space for your subconscious to have a say when you actually arrive at the property.

If you would like me to find a property that will tick those important boxes as well as hopefully make you happy, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com