Friday, September 27, 2013

Anger amongst the Britons Abroad

The continuing saga of the Winter Fuel Payment. (WFP)
Let’s get it straight. 
  • There are quite a few pensioners in France and beyond, who need the money.  They went to France when the £ was strong; and when they got a reasonable return on bank and building society savings.  They came to enjoy more space in cheaper housing than was possible in the UK. They had the guts to appreciate another culture.  They might have thought that the climate would be better and generally it is so with clearer skies and longer winter days.  But they found that winter temperatures were colder, though winter may be shorter.  If they came here more than 15 years ago the WFP did not exist.  When Gordon Brown introduced this old-age benefit, they were at first excluded.   As time has passed, they find the £ has shrunk in value; interest on British savings has dwindled to almost zero; inflation has risen; taxation of income and property in France has risen.  . 
    If they wanted to change their British Bank or Building Society because the banks have bust, they couldn’t and still can’t.
Apart from the French  prices and tax inflation, the British Government is responsible for much of this. It is oblivious to the effect on Britons Abroad of their policies, and frankly is not interested in the Briton Abroad because most of us have no voice in Parliament. Most politicians feed on ‘power’. Their power comes from the votes of the people.    Even the simple ability for Britons abroad to vote was shrunk by the Blair Government from 20 years to 15 years.  But at the time few British residents in Europe took any interest in voting and in those politicians who control their finances.  They turned their eyes away, saying “I’m not interested in politics.” It is still a common theme. Misfortune has come upon them. 
The British Government knowingly or not, gives an unwitting reaction – “They are not interested. We can ignore them.” 
Result – A Briton Abroad is a Briton Ignored. 
  • The European Commission is on our side.  Without it, we would be at the mercy of an uninterested, even antagonistic British Government The EU Commission encourages Britons to be good citizens of Europe. Many British politicians do not just ignore us, they dislike us.  This attitude is encouraged  by parts of the British media which have long been anti!   
  • It was the EU Commission who forced the hand of the UK to pay the WFP to all.  Now the British Government want to cut it away again by using deceitful , dishonest fiddling with statistics.
  • Some Britons Abroad are fighting back, and have always done so, but till now have been few in number.
  • Here is two exchanges between one of us and the Civil Service in the Department of Works and Pensions.

The effect of the British Government on the Briton in Europe
The Government wriggles in trying to impose a temperature threshold on the payment of the Winter Fuel Payment to Britons in Europe, an ‘old-age’ benefit under EU law.
The Government wants our support to maintain their power and yet denies us the ability to vote for or against them after 15 years non-residence in the UK.
The Government taxes those who at one time worked in some form of Government service (such as our soldiers) and then denies them any voice.
The Government makes it difficult to move  money around British Banks by making it impossible to open a new account in the UK.
The Government achieves an exchange rate so low that  many British pensioners reliant on their savings have seen a great drop in income.

You can help.
To help us on our way to achieve some success sign the following petitions and write to certain politicians.

For voting/Representation
And to leave a comment below - It is  not possible on the official petition.
Write to the politician  Chloe Smith  Minister for Political Reform c/o....

For a proper payment of the Winter Fuel Payment
Write to a politician Steve Webb, Minister for Pensions c/o.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Britons Abroad in Europe meet with Mme Viviane Reding, a Vice President of the EU

Brussels 5th September 2013
A delegation of Britons Abroad meet with Mme Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Union and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
The list of all the participants representing all political persuasions, other interests, and the EU commission can be viewed here.

A personal view of the meeting.

 Right -Mme Reding exchanges views with Harry
 Shindler and Sir Roger Gale

Mme Reding holds in her hand the booklet “EU Citizenship Report 2013 
You can read this document by going to the following link ----

Fourteen Britons from France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and London (they included representatives of all three political persuasions along with other interest groups) met with Mme Reding and four EU Commission officials at the Commission offices in Brussels. A Greek citizen was there as an observer and we had a supporting communication from an Irish expatriate group.
Sir Roger Gale MP led our delegation. Harry Shindler, the 92 year old initiator of this meeting encouraged us to meet him to back his demand for his vote to be given back to him by the British Government. Sir Roger exposed the situation that the Briton abroad had the vote taken away after 15 years and asked that the Commission might intervene with the British Government.  The response from Mme Reding was that this would infringe the British subsidiarity clauses in this field
When Mme Redding moved on to another engagement, her Deputy Head of Cabinet, Mme Viviane Hoffman remained with the other officials and we sat round the large oval table in the cabinet room.  Outside in the streets of Brussels the temperature was 33 degrees.  Inside the debate was measured.  .
Harry was disappointed with the Commissioners problem with subsidiarity especailly since later the subject of the Referendum was raised and again the issue of subsidiarity  checked the debate.  That the majority of Britons abroad in the EU may not vote in a referendum which is fundamental to their welfare is an appalling malfunction in any democracy.
Yet as the debate developed I became more and more pleased.  The spirit of the EU was running with us.

Mme Hoffman seen left with Harry Shindler made it abundantly clear that the EU Commission was delighted to have this delegation there.  She use the phrase “honoured that Mr. Shindler” should come to Brussels.  It could not have been more plain. 
This discussion from the start entered the  European sphere – Why else were we there? 
Eight nations of the twenty eight States in the full European Union plus the extra EAA members do not give full democratic rights to their nationals in the rest of Europe.  Britain, Ireland and Denmark are the three significant larger States with this situation
It became increasingly apparent to me that our British  delegation was most important. 
Is the message –‘Britain needs to show the way forward in the matter of Democracy in Europe’ Where Britain goes the others will follow.‘?
This seemed to be a seminal moment.

My time came to speak.
I watched the four people team of the Commission
as I spoke.
“What is a Nation?” I rhetorically asked.   It is the people, not the physical geography of the towns, hills and rivers.  I held my hands like cups to each side and said ‘Democracy is a two way process. On the right the citizens look to the national Government for support and help. On the left the Government should be proactive and look towards the citizens in the European countries to see how they are faring. The British Government does not’.  I saw the two men of the EU commission pick up their pencils almost simultaneously and write. I was surprised and pleased.
We need to be proud of our National Government as the Government needs to show pride in the Briton Abroad.
I spoke of the confused nonsense that can arise from muddled Double Taxation agreements, drawing attention as an example to the varying position of Nurses pensions in Germany (taxed in the UK) and France (not so).  The pencils again moved.  
The meeting drew to a close and perhaps cheekily, I jumped in with a sentence relating to an earlier plea of Harry Shindler’s on the same theme which marks and honours his lifetime endeavours.  “On March 3rd 1944 whilst Harry was fighting at Anzio, the house I lived in was blasted by a stick of German bombs. Let us hope that on May 8th 2014 [Victory in Europe day] we can, as Harry desires, celebrate our victory in this cause with the Churchillian V sign”.
(Author Brian Cave –
Please circulate to accumulate – Britons Abroad must unite.