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Brexit axe looms for British office-holders in France

Brexit axe looms for British office-holders in France

RENNES: After Britain leaves the European Union some 900 Britons serving on local councils in France will also have to give up their seat at the table.

Like all EU citizens living in another member country, Britons in France have the right to vote in local elections and stand for election to their local council.

But in leaving the bloc Britain will forfeit that right, meaning that British residents will no longer be able to represent the communities some have served for years.

Sandra Sheward and her husband moved to the western French region of Brittany 13 years ago.

“Our children fled the nest and we decided to drop out of the rat race in London,” said Sheward, 58, a former training specialist for a property services company.

The pair restored a farmhouse on the edge of Saint-Caradec, a riverside village of 1,200 people, where Sheward was courted by the mayor to join his slate of candidates for the municipal council in 2014.

Being the only non-French councillor, and one who has yet to fully master the language, has not been an obstacle, says Sheward, a born organiser who developed the village’s Christmas art market and helped set up a yoga class, among other activities.

“She doesn’t speak much during council meetings but when she does it’s always very constructive,” Mayor Alain Guillaume said.

In a region that draws large numbers of British tourists and where a number of Britons have second homes, it’s also helpful to have a native English speaker to call on for translations and other assistance.

But if Britain leaves the EU as expected, Sheward will be forced to bow out of politics at the next local elections in 2020.

“French villages are like ghost towns so it has been nice to be on the council. You get to meet more people!” said Sheward, who has applied for residency in France.