In the sixth in a series looking at the views of people from outside of the political bubble, on the EU referendum, Lucy Ashton gets an expat’s perspective
Retiring to a place in the sun is a dream for many people and former West Yorkshireman Brian Cartledge has never looked back since moving to rural France a decade ago.
Brian, who worked for the Probation Service for 30 years, says he was burnt-out and needed to find some “peace, far from the madding crowd” with his wife Brenda.
“France, particularly rural France, offered a tranquility that was becoming much harder to find in Britain,” explains Brian, 69. “South West France offered health benefits both physical and psychological.”
Having experienced the European Union as both a Brit and an ex-pat, he firmly believes Britain should remain a part of it.
“I did vote back in the 1970s and I was one of the 67 per cent that voted to stay in the Common Market as it then was.
“I actually went along to hear Ted Heath speak on the matter, and remember Len Murray and the TUC trying to persuade us to get out.”
Brian will be eligible to vote in June’s referendum and says he will give a “resounding yes” to remaining in the EU, which he compares to a big family.
“Personally, life will become scarily difficult for Brenda and I, particularly from a financial perspective. For Britain, marginalisation will undoubtedly follow.
“We need to compete, be in the game. If you ain’t at the table, you don’t get your share and you can’t argue for more. We need to stay at the table and perhaps realise that ‘family’ is important, even though we don’t always get on. No man is an island.”
If Britain did leave the EU, Brian and Brenda would remain in France. “Nothing would persuade a return to live in the UK. If Brexit comes, we will throw ourselves on the mercy of the French, and hope for a reciprocal agreement to cover the ex-pats here, and the 600, 000 French said to be living in the UK.
“We are UK work and State pension dependant, so there are big concerns for us there. With 10 years here now, we may need to look at future citizenship. Who knows? Bloody Brexit,” he laughs.
For this couple, however their fellow Brits vote, they won’t be tempted back.
“We made the decision to sell-up quite easily, based on factors such as seriously high longevity in the area we have settled in, extremely low population density, and a pro-social ‘can-do’ attitude that abounds in most rural areas here.
“The weather was a big plus and we can both swear the French health service is the best we will ever wish to find.”
Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former Political Editor