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BREXIT

Hollande tells Britain: You must pay the price for Brexit

French President Francois Hollande has sent one of the strongest warnings yet that Britain will have to pay a heavy price for leaving the European Union, adding to deep concern in financial markets.

Hollande tells Britain: You must pay the price for Brexit
Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande has sent one of the strongest warnings yet that Britain will have to pay a heavy price for
leaving the European Union, adding to deep concern in financial markets.

He called for “firmness” by the EU powers in Brexit negotiations to avoid the risk that other countries might seek to follow Britain's lead and leave the bloc.

The comments added to jitters on financial markets, where the pound Friday morning suffered its biggest drop since Britain voted in a June referendum to leave the EU.

“There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price, otherwise we will be in negotiations that will not end well and, inevitably, will have economic and human consequences,” he said in a speech Thursday evening.

“Britain has decided on a Brexit, I believe even a hard Brexit. Well, we must go all the way with Britain's will to leave the European Union.

“We have to have this firmness” otherwise “the principles of the European Union will be questioned” and “other countries or other parties will be minded to leave the European Union in order to have the supposed benefits and no downsides or rules.”

Hollande made the speech to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Institut Jacques Delors, a think tank founded by the former president of the European Commission.

He said Delors “had also faced crises provoked by the United Kingdom”, noting that the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s obtained a rebate on its EU contributions worth billions of pounds every year.

Thatcher “wanted to remain in Europe, but receive a cheque in return,” he said.

“Today, Britain wants to leave, but does not want to pay anything. That is not possible”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Sunday that her government will trigger Brexit negotiations by the end of March, putting the country on course to leave the European Union by early 2019.

European powers keen to dampen rising euroscepticism in their own backyards have taken a hard line with Britain, warning that informal negotiations cannot start before the two-year notification process is triggered.

May's government and party is divided over whether to go for a “hard” or “soft” withdrawal from the EU.

“Hard” Brexit would mean quickly severing all links with EU institutions and pulling out of the single market, relying instead on World Trade Organization rules to trade overseas.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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