French Nationals Prepare to Exit Before Brexit

As a result of the Brexit referendum, many French citizens in the UK have begun planning a return home, despite the efforts of the British administration to ease them through the transition.

While the majority of the UK-residing French, around 250,000-300,000, intend to remain in their chosen home, unease over the Brexit is causing some foreign nationals to leave. However, many wish they didn't have to go. Their heartache over fleeing the UK is coupled with a real anxiety about returning to France, which no longer feels like home.

Other French nationals hold out hope that the Brexit legislation will never go through or linger in the UK to hear what is decided in negotiations between London and Brussels. Earlier this week, the EU parliament denied the British administration's assertion that they had almost reached a deal over EU citizen's rights.

Alice Leclercq, a process safety engineer residing in northern England, explains that her long-term plan to return to France has sped up in reaction to the unpopular 2015 referendum and the increase in harassment that came after.

Leclercq says that people have become more brazenly racist since the Brexit passed, calling her names like "bastard frog" and "surrender monkey".

Last October, former French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann announced that plenty of French nationals felt the post-Brexit escalation in hostility. Bermann went on to detail how decades-old French transplants suddenly felt like foreigners again.

According to Leclercq, the referendum has also complicated every day bureaucracy. For example, although she has a good credit rating, her bank denied her a new credit card. Although searching for jobs in France, the French engineer fears the relocation and no longer thinks of her birthplace as home.

Another French national preparing to return to France, Valérie Ferretti, also experienced a "rise in racism" in the UK.

London, which she once considered diverse and full of opportunity, now feels noxious and xenophobic to her. Ferretti found in her job as a recruiter that employing EU nationals is now seen as full of risk.

She says the reason she hasn't already left is fear and uncertainty. Ferretti's decision is made more difficult by her British partner and four-year-old son, who speak only a small amount of French.

As she says, "I wanted him to be brought up in a place where he could be open to the world."

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