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BREXIT

No-deal Brexit: Brits travelling to Europe ‘to face passport problems and soaring mobile bills’

The British government was set to release more risk assessment papers on Thursday warning its citizens of future headaches with driving licences, passports and mobile phone bills if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

No-deal Brexit: Brits travelling to Europe 'to face passport problems and soaring mobile bills'
Photo: AFP

The reports are part of a series of so-called impact papers or risk assessments produced by the British government to prepare its citizens for likely scenarios if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

Last month the British government released a list of 25 'technical notices' revealing that Brits living in the European Union could lose access to their UK bank accounts and would face higher credit card charges in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

New papers will be published Thursday that touch on the subjects of driving licences, mobile phone bills and passports.

The papers are due to be released officially after British PM Theresa May chairs a special cabinet meeting on what to do in the event of a no-deal.

But the notices are expected to warn that the mutual recognition of EU driving licences would automatically end if Britain leaves the EU without an agreement.

That scenario would clearly create headaches for Brits living in France who use their British driving licenses as well as the thousands of tourists and lorry drivers who cross the Channel each day.

When it comes to passports the government is expected to warn that after Brexit unless a deal is thrashed out then EU countries may not allow British citizens to enter their countries if they have less than six months left on their passport before it expires.

Up until now this has not been an issue.

And as many have also predicted the government is warning that mobile phone roaming charges for Brits who travel to the EU could soar from March 2019 if there's a no-deal Brexit.

The question of what will happen with roaming charges even if there is a deal between London and Brussels is still unclear. Under the draft withdrawal agreement EU regulations, which currently limit roaming charges, would apply to the end of the transition period in December 2020.

But in March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May said that after Brexit the UK will not be part of the EU's Digital Single Market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU.

That means that the European regulation that bans roaming charges will not automatically be part of UK law, so British mobile operators might be able to reintroduce the charges. But all may depend on what is included in any deal struck between London and Brussels over their future relationship after Brexit.

Brexiteers say the risk assessments are scaremongering on the part of the British government but Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said he believes the impact papers are “part of our sensible, pragmatic approach to preparing for all outcomes.”

Speaking ahead of the publications Raab said: ‘With six months to go until the UK leaves the European Union, we are stepping up our ‘no deal’ preparations so that Britain can continue to flourish, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

He added that “getting a deal with the EU is still by far and away the most likely outcome.”

The release of the papers is also believed to be tactical on the British government's part as they attempt to show Brussels that they are seriously preparing for a no-deal Brexit in order to strengthen its negotiating hand with Brussels as negotiations reach a critical point over the coming weeks.

More impact papers are set to be published in the coming weeks.

 

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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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