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Marine Le Pen tries to reassure worried Brits in France (but they’re having none of it)

French far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen praised the UK Brexit voters and said as long as Brits in France were not criminals and did not dispute the French way of life then they'll be fine to stay. But her words have failed to reassure many.

Marine Le Pen tries to reassure worried Brits in France (but they're having none of it)
Photo: Twitter/Nigel Farage

Marine Le Pen, who firmly believes she is on course to become the next French president, praised the UK's “honourable” Brexit voters who freed Britain from a “huge prison”.

She was speaking in an interview with Nigel Farage, one of the key leaders of the pro-Brexit campaign.

The National Front leader said those who have suggested the future rights of Brits in France and of the French in the UK would be threatened by Brexit or even a Frexit were engaging in fear-mongering.

“This is another strategy of fear,” Le Pen told Farage as part of an interview for his UK radio show to be aired on Wednesday.

“After Brexit, nothing will happen to French citizens living in Great Britain and nothing will happen to British citizens living in homes in France. 

“When people live on our territory and are not criminals, they do not dispute our laws or our way of life, our customs, our values.

“I see no reason why we should not continue to welcome them in the French style.”

Le Pen is hoping the same populist momentum that brought Donald Trump to power and pushed a majority of British voters to back Brexit will help her defy the odds and the opinion polls to become French president.

That prospect is worrying Brits living in France who fear the double whammy of Britain leaving the EU and nationalist Le Pen, who once said she wanted to “explode the EU”, taking charge in France.

“I'm waiting to see what happens with the French elections, because I don't fancy being thrown out of the EU, then being told I'm not welcome here either,” said one worried British member of the Remain in France Together Facebook group.

It's unlikely Le Pen's words will reassure many who fear what she would do if she gained power.

“I wouldn't believe her if she was the last one on earth just look at the company she keeps… Farage,” said another member of the Remain in France Together group.

Another said: “She could give no more assurances than a chocolate fireguard.”

READ ALSO: 'French First': What a 'President Le Pen' has in mind for France

'French first': This is what a 'President Marine Le Pen' has in mind for France

If elected Le Pen will seek to regain certain powers from Brussels including economic and legal sovereignty as well as control of France's borders.

If she fails then she will hold a referendum on whether France should leave the EU.

If she succeeded in persuading the French to vote for Frexit she says Britain and France could agree their own trade deal once they were out of the EU.

“I see no reason why France and Britain should not have excellent relations – we are old allies”.

The anti-EU Le Pen was speaking to Nigel Farage, who as Ukip leader had refused to unite with Le Pen’s National Front in the European Parliament deeming the French right wing party “prejudiced and anti-Semitic.

But Farage appears to have softened his stance with images showing him smiling and joking with Le Pen as he interviewed her for his UK radio show.

Le Pen criticised UK Prime Minister Theresa for refusing to meet with her, despite the fact she had made time to meet her presidential rival Emmanuel Macron when he visited London.

The National Front leader said May was “inconsistent” for accepting pro-EU Macron “a key sales person of globalisation and mass immigration… because these are the opposite of what Brexit stands for and the choice made by the British people.”

“I do not understand this inconsistency, this contradiction.” 

 

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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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