The UK joined The Common Market in January 1973, but this had no easing effect on the complications of our moving to France in September of that same year.
The difficulties we faced are little known about, simply because so very few people joined my example. In the area where I settled, I was just about the first Englishman since the end of The 100 Years' War.
Since the EU replaced the old Common Market, moving to any mainland European country has been made very easy. You now buy your house, and simply transfer the Euros direct from your bank account back home. No different to buying a home in Blighty. When I bought my first big old farmhouse (below), things were very different. We even had to declare all imports; furniture, car, dog, etc, on which I had to pay an instant import tax.
In 1973 there were still strict 'Exchange Controls' in place. In order to send large sums of money abroad one was obliged to buy 'Investment Dollars' through The Bank of England, then use these to buy French Francs later. Everyone took their percentage. At the same time, holidaymakers going abroad were limited to £60 spending money. It was a period of severe financial restrictions.
It was a long and costly experience; but we pulled-through; eventually signing papers one day before we would have lost our 10% deposit (and the house) after the prescribed 6 months.
I was only 25, and had left behind some good jobs, and business ventures. I had no plans, so I'd made sure I had enough in the bank back home to see me through the first 10 years; I never touched a penny of that money, and by the time I temporarily returned to the UK in 1980, it had doubled.
I started an Artists Painting Centre, which I very soon closed on account of the bizarre people it attracted; I literally feared for my wife and children. Then I worked as a Stone Cutter for a while, and although I enjoyed the creative side of the work, the actual execution was more suited to hefty Neanderthals than present day Humans. Chiselling away at huge lumps of stone, then lifting them into place, was for 'others'.
Life was not always smooth. My daughter very nearly died of Peritonitis through poor medical diagnosis, my wife had baby No 3, and we had one other medical emergency. As 'foreigners', all hospital care had to be paid for with cash. No free NHS in France.
I'm happy to say that I've never sponged off either the UK or French benefit systems, I've paid all my bills on time, never been in debt, and I've never been in any trouble; I'm not that type. Nothing special about all that, you might say; but you'd be surprised by how many ex-pats cannot say the same!
It's been great fun over the past 48 years. We've had some wonderful neighbours, even though recently some have rather spoiled our peaceful atmosphere. 'Townie' newcomers often have no understanding of the previous calm and gentility of a tiny hamlet, and one has to bite one's lip and despair in silence.
Of course now the UK is no longer a member of the EU, and our status here has changed. Once again we would have to apply for a Carte de Séjour (residency permit) with all that that entails, if we wished to stay in our own home for 12 months of the year. However, with our particular situation it wouldn't be viable. I have always paid my taxes to my native country, and shall continue to do so. I am very much an Englishman. As non-EU members, I believe that all British ex-Pat 'residents' will soon be obliged to pay Taxes in France on all worldwide income, capital gains, inheritances, etc. No thank you!
p.s. I should add that entirely 'by chance' I learned that I had continued to own the 'Investment Dollars' that I'd purchased in 1973, and that they could be sold back to The Bank of England. I filled in the forms in about 1979, and received a very welcomed, and unexpected, £2,000. The value of the Investment Dollars that I'd held had more than doubled in value. A few months later they were abandoned, and I would no longer have received a penny.