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Ryanair will now seek 15m Euro tax refund from French Social Security Authorities


Ryanair, Europe’s No. 1 airline today (27 April) welcomed the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the “A Rosa” case which has upheld the EU rules on social insurance payments for international transport workers. The ECJ has determined that A1 certificates issued by one EU member state (Ireland in the case of Ryanair) which confirms the social insurance status of an international transport worker, must be accepted by all other EU member states (including France who to date have refused to accept them).

Ryanair1-20170324073358973This ECJ ruling confirms that the French Social Insurance Authorities have acted unlawfully over the past 10 years by double charging Ryanair, and its people, who were based temporarily in Marseille, but who had already fully paid their social insurance in Ireland in accordance with EU regulations. Following this ruling Ryanair will now pursue a full refund of the €10m (plus interest) it has paid in double taxes to the French State between 2006 to 2010 following French Court rulings which completely ignored these EU rules and Irish A1 certificates.

The “A Rosa” ruling also renders null and void the 2017 attempt by the French State to pursue Ryanair for social insurance payments for its pilots and cabin crews who were operating on temporary summer schedules from Marseille between 2011 and 2014. Yet again in this case the French Authorities have ignored the EU rules and ordered Ryanair to double pay €5m of social insurance taxes – that have already been validly paid in Ireland – even before the Court case had been heard. Ryanair’s lawyers will be calling on the Marseille investigating magistrate to abandon this investigation which flies in the face of EU social insurance rules, and this ECJ ruling in the “A Rosa” case.

A similar double tax situation also exists in Italy where there are several outstanding claims from 2006 to 2011 being pursued by the Italian Authorities for payment of Italian social insurance when these social contributions have already been paid by Ryanair’s pilots and cabin crew in Ireland. Ryanair’s lawyers will be writing to the Italian authorities to withdraw these claims as they now have no prospect of success given the clear ruling of the European Courts.

Ryanair’s Chief People Officer Eddie Wilson said:

“We welcome this ruling in the “A Rosa” case which upholds the existing EU rules on social insurance payments for international transport workers, and exposes the unlawful attempt by the French (and to a lesser extent the Italian) Authorities, to threaten and blackmail Ryanair for the double payment of social insurance in the case of pilots and cabin crew who have already paid their social insurance contributions in Ireland, in full compliance with EU rules.

Ryanair will now be pursuing a full refund of €15m (plus interest) from the French Authorities who have repeatedly and unlawfully pursued Ryanair, its pilots and cabin crew in Marseille, by ignoring EU regulations, and the validly issued Irish A1 certificates. We will also be pursuing the French Authorities for interest on these payments which were demanded illegally by the French Authorities who were aware of, but ignored, both EU rules and the Irish A1 certificates despite being warned by the European Commission that they cannot do so.

We expect the French Authorities will now process these refunds expeditiously given that their attempts to force Ryanair to double pay social insurance in breach of EU rules have now been struck down by this very welcome ECJ ruling”.  


Open Gardens – latest news

At long last, things are happening in the garden. The white of the snowdrops is being replaced with the yellow tones of the daffodils and primroses and gardeners everywhere are suddenly realising that they are already getting behind with their regular chores. Lawns have had their first cut and suddenly bare branches are turning green with leaves and bare soil is turning green with the dreaded weeds.

Finalement, il se passe quelque chose au jardin. Le blanc des perce-neiges a cédé la place aux tons jaunes des jonquilles et des primevères et les jardiniers un peu partout réalisent soudainement qu’ils sont déjà en retard sur leurs taches habituelles. La pelouse a déjà été tondue et tout à coup les branches nues se couvrent de vert du feuillage et  les parcelles nues se couvrent du vert redoutable des mauvaises herbes.

And once again the Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts season is almost upon us. The first gardens will open in April and the calendar on our new website is starting to fill up as gardeners pick their open days. This means that it’s also time to buy your annual membership cards which are still only 10€ for the whole year!

Et à nouveau la saison d’Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts est de retour. Le premier jardin est ouvert en Avril et le calendrier de notre nouveau site internet commence à se remplir au fur et à mesure que les jardiniers y inscrivent leurs jours d’ouvertures. Cela veut dire aussi qu’il est temps d’acheter vos cartes annuelles de membre qui sont pour cette année encore à 10€.

However, we are pleased to tell you that we are now able to offer something new for those of you who just can’t keep away from beautiful gardens.

En tout cas nous sommes contents de vous dire que dès maintenant nous pouvons offrir quelque chose de nouveau pour ceux d’entre vous qui ne peuvent pas se passer de voir de beaux jardins.

Many of you will know from previous newsletters that we have been attending the Journées des Plantes at Chantilly (above) in order to publicise the name and reputation of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts. It is true to say that this exercise, although it involves considerable planning and input, has been very successful and we are now a regular feature at the show and have agreed with the organisers that each autumn, we will be able to present a cheque to one or more of our beneficiaries.

Depuis nos précédentes newsletters, nombre d’entre vous savent que nous avons été présents aux Journées des Plantes à Chantilly (au dessus) dans le but de faire de la publicité pour le nom et la réputation d’Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts. Il faut dire que cet exercice, qui implique un planning précis et lourd, a été un vrai succès, nous sommes devenus un acteur permanent de cette manifestation, et nous avons décidé avec les  organisateurs que chaque automne nous remettrions  publiquement un ou plusieurs chèques à nos bénéficiaires.

When you consider that this is probably the equivalent of the Chelsea Flower Show, this is no mean achievement. However, there have been other advantages that, until now, we have not announced because we needed to formalise and agree arrangements. I am delighted to say that these arrangements are now concluded and I can now tell you that several gardens of national and international importance have agreed to join our association and help raise funds for French charitable organisations. At the moment, there are only 6 such gardens but the images contained in this newsletter will demonstrate the type of garden that we are now starting to attract.

Quand vous savez que cette manifestation est probablement l’équivalent du « Chelsea Flower Show »  vous pouvez considérer que c’est un excellent résultat. De plus il y a eu d’autres avantages, que jusqu’à présent nous n’avons pas annoncés car il était nécessaire de formaliser nos accords. J’ai le plaisir de vous informer que ces accords sont maintenant réalisés et je peux vous dire aujourd’hui que plusieurs jardins d’importance nationale et internationale ont décidés de rejoindre notre association pour récolter des fonds au profit d’organisations charitables françaises. Pour le moment il n’y en a que 6 mais les images qui suivent vous montrent la qualité des jardins qui nous rejoignent.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte                                               © A. Chicurel – L. Lourdel
Such is the standard of these gardens that most carry the status of Jardins Remarquables and we are delighted to include them in our association. The conferring of this title is not easily gained and owners must agree to many stipulations before they can call themselves a Jardin Remarquable. From the visitor’s point of view, it guarantees that the standard is exceptional and outstanding.

Le niveau de ces jardins est tel que la plupart ont le label de « Jardins Remarquables » et nous sommes heureux de les accueillir dans notre association. L’attribution de ce label n’est pas facile à obtenir et les propriétaires doivent satisfaire à de nombreuses obligations avant d’obtenir la nomination de « Jardin Remarquable ». Du point de vue du visiteur, c’est la garantie d’un niveau exceptionnel et rare.

Arboretum de la Sédelle
Abbaye de Morienval Roseraie
Nearly all of these are gardens are privately owned and normally charge an admission fee but they have kindly offered to open their gates to help further our cause. To visit these gardens, we are introducing a new membership level, which, in recognition of this being the 5th year of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts, we are calling the Anniversary Card.

Presque tous ces jardins sont à la charge de propriétaires privés et normalement font payer un droit d’entré mais ils ont aimablement offert de nous aider encore plus  en ouvrant leurs portes. Pour visiter ces jardins nous avons créés un nouveau type de carte de membre adhérent et comme c’est le 5ème anniversaire d’Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts, nous l’appellerons la « carte anniversaire »

At this stage, we don’t have a large number of “Partner Gardens” (the term we are using for this new category of gardens) but we anticipate that more and more gardens will join us in the future and initial responses to our approaches, suggest that this will be the case.

Pour le moment nous n’avons pas un grand nombre de « Jardins Partenaires » (c’est le terme que nous utilisons pour cette nouvelle catégorie de jardins) mais nous espérons que de plus en plus de jardins nous rejoindrons et les premières réponses à notre approche nous montrent que ce sera bien le cas.

The normal entrance fee to them varies but is generally between 6€ and 8€ per person but our new Anniversary Card will allow free and unlimited access to these gardens during their normal opening times and costs 50€.

Le prix normal de l’entrée varie généralement entre 6€ et 8€ par personne mais notre carte anniversaire permettra un accès libre et illimité aux heures normales d’ouvertures pour 50€.

However, to celebrate our “fantastic fifth birthday”, if a card is purchased at any time during 2017, it will be valid until the end of 2018 (the equivalent of 25€ per annum). Furthermore, the Anniversary Card will also give entry to all of our regular gardens throughout the same period (i.e. 20€ for the 2 years).

Cependant pour célébrer notre « fantastique 5ème anniversaire » si on achète une carte en 2017, elle sera valable jusqu’en fin 2018 (soit l’équivalent de 25€/an). De plus, la « Carte Anniversaire » permettra d’entrer dans tous nos jardins habituels (valeur : 20€ pour les 2 ans).

Les Jardins Henri le Sidaner

Purchasers of the Anniversary Card will initially receive their membership card and a leaflet with a description of each Partner Garden but they will also receive email alerts on new gardens which are added as the year progresses.

Les acheteurs d’une Carte Anniversaire recevront d’abord leur carte de membre et un dépliant avec la description de chaque Jardin Partenaire et ils recevront un e-mail d’alerte leur indiquant les nouveaux jardins au fur et à mesure de chaque année.

Full details of these gardens will also appear on our website. The card is non-transferable and owners of the gardens may request to see proof of identity.

Tous les détails de ces jardins seront sur notre site internet. La carte est non transférable et les détenteurs pourront avoir à justifier de leur identité.

Arboretum du Château de Neuvic d’Ussel
Jardin Exotique du Kestellic
If you wish to purchase an Anniversary Card, please write to the Secretary at the address below with a cheque for 50€ to receive your card.

The Membership Secretary
Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts
BP 5028
23300 La Souterraine PDC.

Si vous souhaitez acheter une « Carte Anniversaire » merci d’écrire au secrétaire à l’adresse ci-dessous avec un chèque de 50€:

Le Secrétariat
Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts
BP 5028
23300 La Souterraine PDC

An online purchase facility will shortly be available via the website and further information on any aspect of the Anniversary Card is available from:

Très prochainement vous pourrez l’acheter sur notre site internet et pour plus d’information sur tout ce qui concerne la Carte Anniversaire vous pouvez envoyer vos questions à :

If you have already purchased an annual membership card for 2017 (10€), simply enclose the card with your application and a cheque for 40€ and the Anniversary Card will be posted to you within days.

Si vous avez déjà acheté votre carte annuelle de membre pour 2017 (10€) joignez la carte avec le formulaire rempli et un chèque 40€, la Carte Anniversaire vous sera envoyée sous quelques jours.

Breeze through boarding with BA


Biometric self-boarding gates – Domestic stands at T5

British Airways is transforming its customers’ airport experience by becoming the first UK airline to introduce automated biometric technology throughout the airport – with the launch of self-service boarding gates.        

Following a successful trial last June, the first three boarding gates for UK domestic flights departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 are now open, and more than 4,000 customers have already benefited from the new technology.

The gates create a smoother journey for customers as they travel through the airport, with travellers scanning their own boarding pass when they arrive at the gate and then simply walking through to the aircraft.

A digital facial scan of the customer is recorded when they travel through security, and when they arrive at the gate, their face is matched with this representation when they present their boarding pass – allowing them to board the aircraft.

Safety and security is at the core of the biometric facial recognition technology, and British Airways’ equipment is more advanced than alternative systems currently used by other airlines and airports.

Three more British Airways self-boarding gates will open at each domestic departure stand each week until mid-June, with a view to roll-out the scheme on international flights in the future.

The introduction of the new gates is part of wider investment into new technology that will enhance the experience British Airways customers have during their time at the airport.

British Airways has also opened self-service bag drop points at Gatwick and Heathrow, and later this year will introduce an improved, more streamlined connections area at T5.

This week, The First Wing opened at T5 – an exclusive redesigned check-in area for premium customers, including a dedicated private security channel with direct lounge access for the first time.

Troy Warfield, British Airways’ director of customer experience, said: “Our customers have told us that they want the ability to simplify and speed up their journeys through the airport.

“The addition of self-boarding gates, along with self-serve bag drop points, are just two of the ways in which we are investing in areas our customers value most.”​


Your reading for May

Reviews by Susan Keefe

At home in the Pays d’Oc

by Patricia Feinberg Stoner


Product Details

People change, and Patricia’s husband Patrick, otherwise known as Himself, proves this by holidaying, and then buying a maison secondaire in the Languedoc region of France, after stating emphatically just after they met that he doesn’t like France.
This is a beautiful area with something new to admire around every corner, fantastic villages, breath-taking views, wonderful architecture, and gastronomy, whatever you like, it is here. However for confirmed urbanites Patricia and Himself, visiting this amazing region, enjoying the social life, and owning and renovating their second home in Morbignan la Crèbe was fine, as long as they can return to their London flat.

As we join Patricia and Himself on their French adventure, the real life dramas of being an expat in France open up to us, including ‘friends’ both English and French, the French system and the little idiosyncrasies which make living in this wonderful country such a challenge – sometimes. Of course we also share with them the wonderful events and meals they join in as part of the Morbignan community, and the friendliness of their French neighbours, well most of them…

Sometimes though we can find our lives changing just like that, other changes come more subtly, such as the ones which took place after a little stray brown and white dog, who came to be called Purdey came into their lives. Dog lovers will understand how important the needs and happiness of our canine companions can be, and so they found themselves spending more and more time in France.

The author Patricia, in this captivating book takes the reader on a voyage of discovery, a celebration of the years her and her husband spent enjoying their French home, both for holidays and all the time. Living a life others only dream of is wonderful but are they still living there? You will have to read this enthralling story to discover the answer…

Available from Amazon


Surgeon’s Story: Inside OR-1 with One of America’s Top Pediatric Heart Surgeons



Surgeon's Story: Inside OR-1 with One of America's Top Pediatric Heart Surgeons by [Oristano, Mark, Guleserian, Kristine]

Dr Kristine Guleserian is a paediatric heart surgeon, and this fascinating book gives the reader a glimpse into her life, career, cases, and what has made her the incredible person she is today.

Congenital heart disease affects approximately 35,000 new born babies in the US alone each year, although it may not reveal itself straight away, sometimes never.

The problem may be discovered at, or just after birth, however, as medical techniques advance problems can be detected whilst the baby is still in the womb, and, if necessary a medical team can be in place to perform surgery straight away.

Like many remarkable people, Dr G, as she is known throughout the book, is humble and does not seek fame, ‘she’s a surgeon, not a writer,’ the author quotes (despite her numerous medical articles), and so he has the honour of shadowing this amazing lady, and telling her story.

I can promise the reader that they will find this book absolutely fascinating and heart-wrenching, as they follow the medical journeys of some of her young patients, discover the problems they faced, and how they were overcome, by Dr G and her amazing team.

One case in particular, I read with a mixture of dread, fear, anticipation and joy, the life journey of little Rylynn, which started pre-birth in the womb of her mother Andrea. Bonding through the story with her parents, having been the mother of a 13 week premature daughter who was born only weighing .635 of a gram, and is now 29 years old. I found it incredibly easy to slip back through the years to the time when I slept on a bed next to hers, and life echoed to the beeps of various monitors…

However Dr G doesn’t just make the dreams and prayers of her patients and their families come true, she also has that amazing capacity, which people in her profession have, of going the extra mile. A shining example of this is in the story of 13 year old Andrew Madden a patient who has a special none medical bond with her, and who attracts the attention of the media by being the 100th heart transplant at the Children’s Medical Center.

Getting personal, she recalls her childhood for the author, and we learn that her calling came at a very early age and was influenced by family and childhood incidents. With a passion for learning, and a loved Greek classics, sports, languages and music, this enquiring and knowledge hungry mind meant that she naturally enjoyed studying. This would prove an essential quality in the years to come, as she graduates from Harvard, and spends many years perfecting her knowledge in her chosen profession. To this day she maintains that you can never afford to stop learning.

Indeed as we look at her work, it is enlightening to see her life through the eyes of the patients, their relatives, her teams, and the students who are lucky enough to learn from her.

Whether you have an interest in pediatric heart problems, love the opportunity to peek into someone else’s life, or are considering a career in the medical profession, this book makes compelling reading. The volume of information and human interest content will have you riveted to every single page.

Available from Amazon


Little Bunny’s Own Storybook

by Margaret Welwood

This is a lovely story, beautifully illustrated, about very happy Little Bunny. He loved his daily routine, the stroll down the path with his mum and dad, and best of all his visit to the library, where each day he picked a different book to read.

Little Bunny just loved getting immersed into the stories, he could meet animals from all over the world, face imaginary dangers, see people doing amazing jobs, and have great adventures all within the pages of a book.

However one day the library is closed, and poor Little Bunny is so sad. What can he do now, there is nothing which can compare to reading his stories, or is there…

What Little Bunny discovers is that you can make your own worlds if you try, with dramas, adventures, fun and danger in them, all you have to have is imagination, and pens, pencils, and paper of course. Also, when you have made up your own story you can read it to others for them to enjoy.

What a fantastic tool this book is for teachers and parents enabling them to inspire their children’s creativity, whatever the reading or writing ability of the child. I read this with my grandson and not only did we have great fun looking at the illustrations, but he was inspired into making up his own little story and enjoyed illustrating it too!

I would highly recommend this children’s book, not only for the hours of fun which can be had creating a story and illustrating it, but also because in doing so you are not only widening the child’s talents, but also giving them a mechanism for escape into another world.


Available from Amazon

Marie and Mr Bee

by Margaret Welwood

In this wonderful children’s book we meet Marie, who is a lovely happy little girl who just happens to be in a wheelchair, and for me this is a very important element of this book and one which makes it extra special. Millions of children are in wheelchairs and yearn to be treated normally and they want to play the same as other children. Marie sets a shining example, she lives a happy full life, in a cabin in the woods and has some marvellous animal friends who she enjoys playing with.
Being a good girl she does all her household chores first, then she knows she can be free to meet her friends and play games with them.
However, when one day Mr Bee flies in and boasts that he doesn’t do any work, Marie begins thinking, why work, after all if Mr. Bee doesn’t have to, then why should she?

As the idea takes hold, it seems fantastic, however soon Marie realises that all her friends do important chores and can’t just play when she wants them too. Suddenly she starts to understand that although playing is fun, it has its place, everything people do is important, and everyone has responsibilities.

Then when Marie finds Mr Bee hungry and sad, the author uses Marie’s kindness and forgiveness to round off this lovely story by illustrating to children the importance of compassion, responsibility, and the wonderful power of friendship.

I read this enchanting and beautifully illustrated story to my grandson and he loved it. Not only is this a wonderful story but it opens doors to discuss potentially difficult things with children, like wheelchair use, and why it is important that they do their chores before play. And finally, who can resist making Marie’s blueberry pancake recipe which is at the back of the book.

Available from Amazon


Which way are the bees voting in La Présidentielle?

by Kevin Baughen

The current French Presidential election is all over the news right now and given the behaviour of our bees over the last month, we’re beginning to think that they’re aligning themselves to the front-running candidates!

For a start, the recent warm-then cold-then wet-then warm again weather here in the Charente has got all of our hives pretty fired up and a little more Voting Beeagitated than usual – perhaps in line with the electorate in general.  And now we’re starting to see differences in the way hives are behaving so here’s our take on which way our bees would vote – just for laughs you understand…

The Economy

All the hives have a very strong work ethic and believe in being able to reap the benefits of their hard work, so they’d definitely prefer not to have a third party jumping in and pinching part or all of their honey-profits!  So a vote for low-tax and support for hard-working enterprise here.

Society and Social Values

Our bees are becoming harder on ‘scroungers’ – any bee not contributing is usually kicked out of the hive or simply killed.  We’re not sure any of the candidates would go that far but we’re certain the idea would appeal to some!

Family Values

At this time of year, our colonies are reproducing themselves through swarming which means there are several virgin queens flying around looking for a male drone, preferably from another hive, to mate with.  In fact, she’s looking for up to 30 males to mate with in one glorious day of sexual energy!  The vote here is definitely for a liberal, free-love administration.


When colonies are growing to full strength, it’s vital that they protect their space and the food stores they have collected from robbers and other predators.  The guard bees are on high defensive alert right now and you can see them all hanging around just inside the hive entrances looking out for trouble.  They don’t like intruders and that includes the lawnmower which, even though it might be huge, it makes a strange noise and gets a bit too close to the hives for their liking, so they attack it!  This is going to be a vote for the hard-liners we suspect.


The cause célèbre of several contemporary elections in Europe; our bees are a bit of a hypocritical bunch (perhaps a bit like the rest of us)… They will fight off intruders and creatures they suspect of being robbers or scroungers and don’t really like to mix with ‘other’ bees and buzzing things.  On the other hand, if bees from a failing hive turn up laden with nectar and pollen as gifts, they are often welcomed into the hive.

At a taster session we held at 13 Bees this week, one of our guests was an immigrant from the UK – and he was the only one that got stung! So maybe that’s at least one vote for Ms Le Pen.

Who Wins?

According to our hives, as long as defence and hard-work are mainstays of any future government policy, we don’t think they care who wins! And it’s probably just as well they can’t vote as they’d scare the wotsits out of polling staff

If you’d like to meet our very socially conscious bees and learn more about beekeeping, get in touch at

Is time running out for today’s pension opportunities?

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

With the Brexit clock ticking, we have less than two-years’ certainty about the rights of expatriates in France. Take steps to secure your financial future by using this time to review the options for your retirement savings.

The option to transfer

Based on current law, Brexit should not change how you can access or transfer UK pension funds. Today, many expatriates transfer to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) to benefit from tax advantages and flexibility over UK pensions.

Once in a QROPS, funds are sheltered from UK taxation on income and gains and no longer count towards your lifetime pension allowance (LTA), enabling unlimited growth without attracting 55% or 25% LTA tax penalties.

Usually, QROPS also provide greater investment diversification compared to UK pension schemes and more freedom to vary income. Whereas most UK pensions are payable only to your spouse on death, QROPS offer flexibility to include other heirs in estate planning.

Even if nothing materially changes post-Brexit in how we draw UK pensions in France, the income remains vulnerable to exchange rates. QROPS offer multi-currency flexibility, letting you hold and draw your savings in different currencies. This potentially insulates pension income from volatility in the pound and euro.

The new QROPS tax

QU6oZd8gIG-1A new ‘overseas transfer charge’ revealed in the UK Spring Budget may be an indication of changes post-Brexit. Since 9th March, a 25% tax applies to UK pension funds transferred to a QROPS outside the European Economic Area (EEA), unless you live in the same jurisdiction. All other QROPS transfers (within the £1 million lifetime pension allowance) remain free of UK taxation.

Expatriates in France moving to a QROPS based within the EEA, like Malta, escape this tax. Take note, however, that liability lingers for a full five tax years after the transfer date. So if your circumstances change within that time to make you eligible for taxation – like moving outside the EEA – the UK taxman can still claim a quarter of transferred funds. This will not affect you if you transferred your pension before the new rules came into force on 9th March 2017.

Limited tax-free window?

Brexit will eliminate Britain’s current EU commitments, offering more opportunities to recoup revenue from UK nationals abroad. Many speculate this will prompt the UK government to impose widespread penalties on pension transfers. They could also change the rules to make it harder to take advantage of today’s high transfer values for ‘defined benefit’ (final salary) pensions.

However, transferring is not suitable for everyone and differences between QROPS providers and jurisdictions could affect tax benefits. Alternative investment structures could offer expatriates comparable benefits to QROPS, so take advice to establish the most suitable approach for you. With pensions it is also important to use regulated providers for protection from scams and unsuitable investments.

Until April 2019 – while Britain is still an EU member – little can change in relation to the way you receive or transfer your UK pensions. If you decide that transferring is right for you, consider acting now, before Brexit triggers change, to secure the retirement of your choice in France.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

We upload new financial articles for expatriates each week. Visit our website here

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Stakes and chips

A personal view of the business and role of property

by Richard Pickering, Head of Research & Insight Cushman & Wakefield

The Devil and the deep blue Channel  A no-win outcome for the UK is starting to form on the other side of La Manche. The new French President 20170427123246SAXoPicture-07780BB8-870689240is very likely (1/8) to be Emmanuel Macron – a pro-EU former banker, who has described Brexit as ‘a crime’, and is open about his intention of luring British businesses to Paris.  Negotiations with Macron will not be an easy ride.  The alternative is Marine Le Pen – a fiercely anti-EU right winger, who on the one hand, is likely to be sympathetic to the UK’s position, but on the other has the potential to significantly destabilise Europe. The political choice is relatively binary, but the economic outcome offers few rays of light. Qui vivra verra…

Disappearing distances  Test runs have been carried out this week on London’s new Elizabeth Line (aka Crossrail). When open next year, travel times across the capital will abbreviate considerably. But Crossrail is the tip of the iceberg. Technology is significantly driving down both the cost and time penalties associated with distance. Examples include the facilitation of small-scale local manufacturing, the option of delivering services virtually, the use of drones to lower human costs, and much quicker physical travel such as the hyperloop. The cost of distance is precisely what creates the economic rationale for cities, and in turn cities are what create real estate value. Elizabeth_line_roundel.svgConsequently, as Bain noted in a paper on the subject last year, with declining costs of distance, those industries which take a long term bet on location may suffer: ‘The value of fixed assets—including real property, such as apartment buildings, shopping centers, telecom fiber and toll roads—may fall sharply’, whereas extra-urban values in desirable locations may rise in response.

Mixed fortunes  The announcement of the General Election is likely to be well received by those invested in UK property.  The NAREIT index is down 17% on its pre-referendum position, with REITs suffering from both a domestic focus and the pro-cyclicality of property returns. However, if, as many believe, the General Election will bring some stability to the UK, and the pound continues to rally over the months to come (highest since October at $1.29), then these fortunes may continue to change. With fixed income yields continuing to fall (10-yr gilt yield down 160 bps in the past two years), a healthy spread has developed for prime property yields (1.75% – prime City over typical BBB). Meanwhile, continuing discounts to NAV provide stimulus for M&A, with Kennedy Wilson Europe and Market Tech providing recent examples.

Skilling lags  A recent report by the CIPD concludes that the UK is ‘sleepwalking into a skills crisis’. UK residents are simultaneously more under-skilled and more over-skilled than their EU counterparts suggests data from Eurostat, highlighting the polarisation of UK fortunes. Investment in skills is needed to spark lagging UK productivity, which has tailed off since 2007 and now stands 20% lower than Germany. History tells us that the reskilling of a workforce significantly lags major industrial change. With greater anticipated disruption to the UK economy, both through Brexit, but more so through changing business models, the case for investing in the education sector is a strong one.

Shaping regional infrastructure  The CBI has called for investment in regional infrastructure, citing a £175bn benefit to the economy realised through associated productivity gains. To achieve this it sets out priorities including: North East (Newcastle Airport), North West (Northern Powerhouse Rail), Yorkshire (alleviating congestion), West Mids (M6 capacity), East Mids (freight capabilities), South West (ports), South East (Cambridge-Oxford link), and London (outer London economic hubs).  Through addressing these, it is hoped that the wide productivity gap between regions will fall, with real estate values often becoming indirect beneficiaries.  Meanwhile the biggest ticket item, HS2, inches further forward this week, with French operator SNCF throwing its hat in the ring for the operating contract. At the same time, rumours emerge around the strength of the Government’s commitment to the project post-election.

Shut up shop  A report by S&P notes that retail bankruptcies in the US are on the rise.  Extrapolating the number in the year to date (14), puts 2017 on course to be the worst since 2011. S&P lays the blame on the increasing online focus, leaving many US retailers ‘over-stored’ relative to the source of sales.  It ranks department store operator Sears as having the highest one-year default risk (1 in 4 chance), with credit risks rising across the board. Moving downstream in the value chain, others are noted as susceptible to knock-on effects, with explicit reference made to commercial real estate and REITs. Interestingly, this is in spite of an increase in the levels of disposable income, highlighting the relative impacts of disruption versus the economic cycle on this sector.

Chip and whisky  Much has been written about the threat to human jobs posed by robots. Elon Musk’s new philosophy: if you can’t beat them, join ElonMusk-Merge-Brain-Computers-032717-ltthem!  His new venture ‘Neuralink’ has an immediate mission to tackle brain injuries, but a longer term ambition to enhance human intelligence through neural implants, which one day may enable humans to access the internet directly. Less ambitiously, subcutaneous NFC / RFID chips are already being used in offices to open security doors, turn on lights, pay in staff canteens, and use secure printers. To this end, startup hub Epicenter in Stockholm has already implanted 150 workers, promoting the activity with ‘Chip & Whisky’ afterwork drinks. Sounds fun. As workforce diagnostics become more widespread, how long will it be before one needs to become a cyborg to use the coffee machine? Or perhaps before one becomes the coffee machine.

Auto-complete  The promise of an election campaign has spurred the UK electorate to turn to the internet in a quest for supporting information. In ascending order of frequency, Google users have asked: ‘Why has Theresa May called an election?’, ‘When was the last General Election?’, and of course the confidence-filling top hit: ‘What is a General Election?’ Google’s automatic search predictions provide an interesting insight into the psyche and vexations of the nation upon whose historic queries these are based. Type the emboldened words, and Google’s auto-completes the rest in ways which are: concerning: (I ate a – big red candle); paranoid: (Dinosaurs were – made up by the CIA to discourage time travel), philosophical: (What would a – chair look like if your knees bent the other way), and (hopefully) hypothetical: (Can a human – get a dog pregnant).  Typing EU gives…? Euphonium, of course.

Richard Pickering

Head of UK Research & Insight
Cushman & Wakefield

125 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1AR, United Kingdom

Manish’s Zodiac predictions for May 2017

o7nNpKTaurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – You are feeling reflective rather than expressive. It is  not a time to be able to make a presentation or to come on strong to the world. Concentrate on truly listening to those close to you, and on playing a supportive role. Setting realistic financial goals, as well as formulating such things as budgets and other sensible financial planning projects, will be favoured during this time. Discovering ways to increase your income is featured.  Relations are likely to be tensed. Disillusionments with finances as well as personal relationships are possible. Favorable Dates : May 5, 8, 14, 17, 23, 26  Favorable Colors : Green & White

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June ) – This is a time to start fresh in terms of how you arrange your life in order to feel a sense of value and worthiness. You’re looking at the world in terms of value and worth now, and what you have (or don’t have) is on your mind. Money issues pop up now—the discovery of a way to increase your income, an unexpected gift or reward, or a brief and tiny financial crisis that motivates you to find new ways to make money are possible. Favorable Dates : May 5, 8, 14, 17, 23, 26  Favorable Colors : Green & White

Cancer ( 21 June – 22 July ) - This is a time when you naturally let loose your softer, receptive side. Romantic matters, as well as pleasure-seeking activities, come to the fore now. It is natural for you to attract who and what you want into your life now. Career matters may also be strong. Work matters are favoured and highlighted. You can enjoy an increase in personal influence, acknowledgement, or some other form of reward. Your personal magnetism runs quite high. You have the chance to improve your relationships with others–and with yourself!  Favorable Dates : May 3, 4, 12, 13, 21, 22  Favorable Colors : Red & Yellow

Leo  ( 23 July – 22 August ) – Pay attention to your gut feelings, which will, give you valuable information. Creativity runs very high this month, but the tendency towards the impractical is also quite strong. You may often rely on your instinctual judgment. You are more enthusiastic and ready for adventure. Your imagination soars. but you can also be attracted to unviable ventures. There can be an increased need for sexual union, as your passions are stirred this month. There can be the beginning of a significant new relationship, or the intensification of an existing romance. Favorable Dates : May 3, 7, 12, 16, 21, 25  Favorable Colors : Blue & White

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September ) – You have the power of practicality, realism and caution on your side during this period. Work you have done in the past begins to pay off now–not necessarily in dramatic ways, but in small, measurable ways. You may be recognized or rewarded in some way for the efforts you put forth. Your mind is working at top speed this month, and you can bring a lot of energy into your work as a result. However, your mind might often spin with ideas and nervous tension could occur if you’re not mindful of slowing down from time to time. Favorable Dates : May 2, 8, 11, 17, 20, 26  Favorable Colors : Blue & Red

Libra ( 23 September – 22 October ) – Your self-confidence and positive attitude will reward you. Your inner needs tend to be mirrored by external events, and vice versa.. With the ability to handle your emotions successfully, there is less stress on both your mind and body. You are able to find new insight into old problems, and your thinking processes during this period are likely to be especially original. You may solidify a romantic relationship, strengthen a current relationship through increased appreciation for the simple things in life, or become involved with a mature partner. Favorable Dates : May 2, 5, 11, 14, 20, 23  Favorable Colors : Yellow & Red

Scorpio ( 23 October – 21 November ) – This can be an emotionally stimulating time in which you feel the urge to initiate and projectNew beginnings are in order, and you are bound to feel some level of excitement as the month unfolds. Your sexual and physical activities tend to be more intense, passionate, and focused. It’s an excellent time in which to make a lifestyle change, as your ability to concentrate on what really matters to you is enhanced. Your openness to entertaining the unusual and to experimenting brings more opportunities into your life. Favorable Dates : May 2, 8, 11, 17, 20, 26  Favorable Colors : Yellow & Blue

Sagittarius ( 22 November -21 December ) – You are in comfortable demand and personally popular, and you are able to achieve a decent balance between work and play; personal and professional life. You can experience more popularity or a stronger interest in others and making connections. You can have many projects and ideas going on at this time, as you are hungry for variety, knowledge, and mental excitement. You will have a taste for the offbeat this month, and this energy can bring sudden or unexpected romance into your life, perhaps a scenario that feels like love at first sight. Favorable Dates : May 3, 5, 12, 14, 21, 23  Favorable Colors : Green & Blue

Capricorn ( 22 December – 19 January ) – You’re in a fabulous position to succeed this month. The month is infused with enterprising spirit. Professional as well as personal opportunities present themselves. You will have a strong need to take chances on new ventures, to be daring and original, and  bound to make numerous mistakes in the process. There may be some kind of conflict in your life arising from a great urge to do something different. The month ahead promises to be a busy, dynamic, and significant  period in your life.  Avoid getting hung up on differences of opinion. Favorable Dates : May 3, 6, 12, 15, 21, 23  Favorable Colors : Green & White

Aquarius ( 20 January – 18 February )  – Your mind is fertile this month and you are able to blend practical thinking with imagination. You can talk your way into, or out of, almost anything. There can be the need to make difficult decisions,  a change in your reputation can occur, or others might get fired up over something that you’ve said. The need to assume responsibility for your actions arises. Try to avoid extreme responses. Financials improve in general, and it can be especially easy to find support this month, if necessary. Favorable Dates : May 3, 7, 12, 16, 21, 25  Favorable Colors : Red & Blue

Pisces ( 19 February – 20 March ) – Professional goals are clearer, and your reputation demystifies and improves as you gain more clarity, direction, and purpose. Working relationships are far improved in May. You are better able to smooth over differences and create a more harmonious working environment. Casual relationships would also be going strong and gaining momentum now that the air is cleared. There is a need to reinvent your relationship in some way. Communications with family will be healthier this month, and you’re feeling back on track with them. Greater insight is a reward for your efforts.  Favorable Dates : May 3, 9, 12, 18, 21, 27  Favorable Colors : Yellow & White

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April ) - You are in the position to gain more of an overall perspective on your life and on your goals. You feel more fulfilled when you expand your horizons during this cycle. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of blind optimism, it’s a very pleasant time when you have the guts to do something different and enjoy yourself. Your life begins to stabilize, life becomes neater and more fulfilling, and you are more able to meet your responsibilities happily. This long-term trend boosts your confidence. Life is becoming less stressful and more satisfying. Favorable Dates : May 1, 2, 10, 11, 19, 20 Favorable Colors : Blue & Red

Open Gardens / Jardins Ouverts 2017

Why not make this year the year you ‘get involved’?

Now, at the start of its fifth year, Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts is continuing to develop and extend into more and more départements throughout France. Although the association only started in 2013 with 4 gardens, there are now over 100 gardens to view in France, all of which can be seen on the Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 14.55.07new website (

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 14.54.05For those who have yet to hear of the association, it is based loosely on the concept of the UK’s National Garden Scheme, which raises funds for charitable organisations by encouraging owners to open their garden gate to visitors who pay a small fee for entry.

Such has been the success of Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts, that donations totalling 16,000€ were made in 2016 to 8 different charities, the largest of which (12,000€) was given to A Chacun son Everest, an association which organises activities for children and young adults in remission from cancer or leukaemia.

2017 has got off to a flying start and several gardens have already had very successful open days. It is hoped to open even more Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 14.54.52gardens this year and consequently raise still larger sums for charitable causes in France.

There are several ways to be involved and the easiest is by being a visitor. Access to all the gardens in the scheme throughout the year is simply done by purchasing a 10€ annual membership card which is available either through the website or at the first garden you visit. If you are only here for the day, you may instead buy a Day Pass for 5€. By so doing, not only are you accessing lots of beautiful gardens, you are also helping worthy causes. Currently, 80% of our receipts are given back to charities, the Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 14.53.10balance being used to run the association.

If you really like the idea, you may wish to become involved in other ways: either by opening your garden on at least 1 day a year (as most of our gardeners do) or by being a local coordinator. The role of the coordinator is simply to help find more gardens in your area, which may be really large or simply within your own local commune – it’s entirely up to you. It may just be as small as a group of 3 or 4 friends who wish to welcome people into their gardens and, by so doing, meet new friends and raise money for good causes.

Our intention is to become a nationwide association by 2021 and we are always keen to hear from people who wish to help us Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 14.53.54achieve this goal. If any of the above is of interest to you, do please give us a call on 05 55 63 43 12 or write to me at

Driving to France? Check if you need a new emissions sticker to avoid a possible £100+ fine

By Faye Lipson, News Reporter MSE News

f you’re planning to drive to France and go through Paris, Lyon or Grenoble, beware. New rules mean you’re likely to need to display a vehicle emissions sticker on your windscreen, while older cars could be banned altogether at certain times.

The three French cities have introduced the ‘Crit’Air’ scheme, which is designed to curb pollution and requires most vehicles driving within designated ‘environmental zones’ to display a window sticker (known as a vignette).

The stickers cost €4.80 (around £4.17), including postage to the UK. There are six categories of sticker, which are colour-coded according to how much vehicles pollute and range from the cleanest (Crit’Air 1), for electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles, to the most polluting (Crit’Air 6).

While the vignettes only cost a few pounds, if you’re caught driving without one in an environmental zone you could be hit with a hefty on-the-spot fine of up to €135 (about £117).

Be careful when buying one though. has identified at least one non-official site selling the vignettes at more than six times the price on the official website. Don’t be fooled – always buy through the French environment ministry (see full help on how to get a sticker below).

For more ways to cut the cost of driving at home and abroad, see our 50+ Motoring MoneySaving Tips.

How do the new restrictions work?

Not all vehicles require a sticker – cars registered before 1997, motorbikes and scooters from before June 2000 and trucks and buses from before 2001 are all excluded from the scheme and can’t be driven at all when the restrictions apply.

While technically you can drive a vehicle without an emissions sticker through the restricted zones when the restrictions aren’t in force, the RAC strongly recommends that if you’re planning to drive in Paris, Lyon or Grenoble, and you qualify for a vignette, you get one and display it at all times. Otherwise there’s a risk you may be caught and fined, especially as restrictions could vary locally.

Here’s how the driving restrictions work in the three cities:

  • In Paris: The restriction affects all areas inside the city’s orbital road, known as the Boulevard Périphérique. It is usually in place between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday. That means you need to display a vignette if you want to drive in central Paris during those hours. If you don’t qualify for a vignette – or you don’t want to buy one – you can only drive outside those hours.
  • In Lyon and Grenoble: There are no specific hours when the restriction is in place. Instead, it can be imposed on days where pollution is judged to be particularly high. Again, if you don’t qualify for a vignette – or you don’t want to buy one – you will be unable to drive in certain areas when the restrictions are in place.

Full details of all France’s traffic restrictions and schemes can be found on the EU’s Urban Access website.

The scheme’s already up and running for French drivers, although cars registered in foreign countries including the UK can be safely driven in Paris without a vignette until Friday 31 March. It’s not clear whether there is any equivalent tolerance period in place for tourists in Lyon and Grenoble.

Authorities in about 20 other French towns have already signalled their interest in adopting the vignette scheme, so if you’re a fan of driving holidays in France you’d be wise to get to grips with it now.

How to get a sticker

Go to the French environment ministry’s website to apply – don’t buy from anywhere else as we’ve seen some non-official sites selling these stickers at vastly inflated prices.

It’s not necessary to apply for a particular vignette. Simply fill in the order form – it’s in English – with details of your vehicle and you’ll be sent the right one. (If you’re unsure and want to check your vehicle’s European emissions standard, use the RAC’s website.)

This is the ONLY way to apply if your vehicle is registered in the UK – you can’t get a sticker once you’re in France. To fill in the form you’ll need the following info:

  • Licence plate number
  • Date of first registration
  • Fuel and vehicle type
  • Serial number (VIN)
  • A digital copy of your vehicle registration document (to be uploaded)
  • Name and address
  • Payment details (you can only pay by debit card)

It can take up to 30 days from your application to receive the vignette by post – you can track its progress. Unfortunately there’s no express delivery option, so apply well before your holiday. If you leave it too late, you’ll have no option but to avoid the restricted zones.

Once your vignette arrives, attach it to the lower right-hand side (as seen from driver’s seat) of your windscreen in such a way that it can be read by someone outside the car. View the official instructions for how to do this, or watch the video below (even if you don’t speak French, you can see how it’s done).

Reprinted from Money Saving Expert