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‘Brexit gave me shingles’ says expat who spent fortune moving to France and can’t get her son over

A British farmhouse owner who made it to France before the 2020 Brexit deadline by “the skin of her teeth” said she got shingles from the stress as things changed “beyond words” after the UK quit the EU.

Clare Emblin, 63, originally from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, said she and her husband, Malcolm, 68, “actually arrived in France with five dogs at half past seven on New Year’s Eve”, after which Britons could no longer move freely in the EU.

Brexit started affecting them as soon as the June 2016 referendum took place as the sale of their house in the UK fell through after the buyers became “jittery” amid widespread uncertainty over its implications, the staunch Remainer claimed.

The Emblins already had a property in Brittany but were looking to sell that on top of their UK property to buy a bigger house in France that “ticked every box – it was perfect”.

Clare Emblins and her husband Malcolm ( Photo: Clare Emblins)
Ms Emblin said that since Brexit, things have changed ‘beyond words’ (Photo: Michaela Goff)

At the same time, the couple were forced to withdraw their offer on the property in L’Absie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, as its price skyrocketed by £9,000 overnight.

Fast-forward to November 2020 and an “out of the blue offer” was made on their UK home, which allowed them to relocate to Brittany. But the resettlement process was deeply stressful, says Ms Emblin, because the rules had changed “beyond words” once the implications of Brexit started to bite.

“It was pretty grim – I went down with a really bad bout of shingles just before we moved and it was just the stress of it,” she told i.

Ms Emblin said that transferring her five horses, who were to old for anyone to buy, was expensive and exhausting.

“The paperwork was off the scale,” the mother of two and former horse rider said, adding that each animal needed 10 to 12 double-sided documents written in both English and French, along with 105 stamps on each set of papers.

The transfer cost went from a pre-Brexit estimate of £650 a horse (so £3,250 in total) to more than the £12,500 it cost them to move all their belongings from the UK.

“They had to have this test, that test, all horses carry passports. Mine had two so that complicated things.”

She said Calais had not been “geared up” for the custom charges horses were now subjected to, meaning they could only process about 25 horses a day.

“They were held on the lorry for three hours in the heat,” added Ms Emblin, who has since moved to an idyllic €300,000 (£260,000) farmhouse in Indre, central France, where she looks after the animals and rents out self-catered luxury gites.

Ms Emblin, a “keen gardener”, also had to give up her beloved plants before moving to France. “I had to give them all away. Any bulbs I had or trees, I wasn’t allowed to bring them in in case they were contaminated because they don’t carry a passport, they’ve just come out of my garden.”

She added: “The question I would like to ask is what benefit has anybody in the UK who voted for Brexit seen?”

Ms Emblin said her son, 28, voted by proxy to Remain from Spain. “He felt so strongly that should he want to work or live abroad, that opportunity had gone,” she said.

Britons can now only stay in the EU without a visa for 90 days in a 180-day period. “If one of my children wanted to come and live with us now they can’t because they are not dependent,” she said.

“For anybody [wanting] to move to France now and have some sort of income, you have to write a business plan in French, demonstrate that you earn X amount a year and basically, you will not be a burden on any of the French systems.

“So you can’t just say ‘let’s move to France’. Not now, you could, but not now.”

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