“I have lived here for years, and I will not have a say in village life. “ Shelly England the aptly named is visibly saddened by the situation. Next March, during the municipal elections, this 61-year-old British citizen, who has lived in France for more than twenty years, should have been on the list of the outgoing mayor. But Brexit, scheduled for January 31, decided otherwise.
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It was in 2005 that Shelly settled in the former presbytery of Saint-Léger-Magnazeix (Haute-Vienne), a beautiful house with an enclosed garden, next to the 12th century churche century of this small Limousin village. She was then one of Her Majesty’s first subjects to take up residence in the region. Since then, attracted by the low real estate prices, the British have settled in numbers in Haute-Vienne. Saint-Léger is particularly concerned: the British represent more than 20% of its 500 inhabitants.
“They are exasperated, they are afraid”
Since the arrival of the current mayor, Josiane Demousseau, in 2008, there have always been English people on the municipal council. And the town councilor, who is about to launch his campaign to win a third term in March, does not hesitate to say “Desperate” from the perspective of Brexit. Not only should the British lose the right to vote in the local elections they enjoy as European citizens, but the prefecture of Limoges also forbade the mayor to take it from his list, because of the “Uncertainties” on the January 31 deadline. “We don’t know anything about how it’s going to happen, neither do the English, annoys Josiane Demousseau. They are exasperated, they are afraid. They get up every morning wondering what sauce they are going to be eaten. “
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If the mayor makes so much of these citizens from across the Channel, it is that they have “Largely contributed to the life and soul of the village”. Saint-Léger-Magnazeix is today a living commune, with a bar, a tobacconist, a restaurant … “They have invested, repaired houses, opened shops”, lists the elected representative who spoke in French and English when expressing her wishes.
Medical coverage, the main concern
“If they weren’t there at the start, I don’t know how I would have paid my first charges”, confirms Myriam, who has been running the bar-grocery store for six years on the Place du Bourg. Brexit is not good news for the village, although French residents are annoyed today that some Britons live too much with each other. Some even have their groceries delivered from England every week!
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Shelly, a former retired accountant, one of the best integrated and most French-speaking, continues to help his compatriots for administrative procedures related to the exit from the Union. The race for residence permits is launched, “But the main concern is for medical coverage”, says the Englishwoman, who regrets that her compatriots have not always made the effort to learn to speak French.
Brexit, however, should not scare away the English from Saint-Léger who made their living here. New arrivals from across the Channel have continued even since the British referendum. “My life is here and I love it, it won’t change”, sums up Shelly, serene. In the meantime, the mayor and his constituents were hoping for yet another turnaround by January 31.