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BREXIT

Brits fear Brexit could spell end of historic Channel ferry hop

Taking the ferry along a historic route between England and France has become a way of life for British retiree Peter Baker, who awaits Brexit with more than a little trepidation.

Brits fear Brexit could spell end of historic Channel ferry hop
The Newhaven-Dieppe ferry reverses out from the port on its return journey to Dieppe in Newhaven, southern England on October 4, 2018.
The 63-year-old lives in the town of Plumpton in southern England near Newhaven, where he boards the boat to Dieppe about once a month to his second home in Normandy.
   
“It is an excellent, excellent line and we fear for its future,” said Baker, a member of the TUG-Horizon users' association which lobbies to preserve the often-threatened service.
   
Twice a day, three times in the summer, the ferry from Dieppe unloads up to 140 cars, 40 trucks and 600 passengers into the small fishing port of Newhaven, home to 12,000 people.
   
The route is also popular with French tourists travelling to London — which is only 75 minutes away by train — the seaside resort of Brighton or the English countryside.
   
The line is currently subsidised to the tune of 25 million euros ($29 million) per year by the Seine-Maritime County Council.
 
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No-deal Brexit: What France's draft law means for Brits in FranceImage: Deposit photos

That subsidy was renewed for another four years in January but the concern is that potential customs controls after Britain leaves the European Union could slow down traffic.
   
That could hit small seaside towns like Newhaven and Dieppe disproportionately hard.
   
Jean-Christophe Lemaire, an official with the group that oversees the management of the port of Dieppe, said Brexit does not immediately threaten the passenger line.
 
But he warned that a tough Brexit would “impact on the profitability of the line”.
   
“And the line will only be able to continue if we maintain a high level of freight,” he said. 
 
'Antidote to Brexit'
 
Between 70 and 80 percent of the ferry's 350,000 annual passengers are British, but most do not stop to enjoy the charms of Dieppe, with around 5,000 visiting its tourist office every year.
   
“I have English customers who come once or twice a year,” said Michael Charaoui, 39, French owner of English pub “Le Cambridge”, located a stone's throw from the pebble beach. 
   
“We can feel they are worried, but I reassure them,” he added.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Charaoui said Brexit could even be a benefit for him if duty-free on alcohol is reinstated on the ferries, increasing the demand for “booze cruises” from British customers.
   
Brexit is also not a major concern for Marica Rolin, who runs three guest rooms in her red-brick home.
   
“My British customers are regulars, who come two or three times a year,” she said. 
   
“They will always come to buy wines and cheese,” said the Dieppe native, whose clientele is 30 percent British. 
   
But the ferry being cancelled would be “a disaster”, she said. 
   
Although Britain will leave the EU, the country “will not move”, and links with Newhaven are of historic depth, said Brian Collinge, 70, who retired from publishing and moved to Dieppe's former English quarter 18 years ago.
   
As early as 1824, customers of the General Steam Navigation Company boarded in Brighton to reach Dieppe in nine hours, before the line moved 9 miles (15 
kilometres) east to Newhaven.
   
Britain's decision almost two centuries later to leave the European Union came as a huge shock to Newhaven resident June Bradbury (pictured below). 
 
Airbnb host June Bradbury is pictured in her working space inside her house in Newhaven, southern England on October 4, 2018. Photo: AFP 
 
“I think for a week I cried,” she said. “It just felt like a terrible loss.”
   
The trauma led her to invite tourists into her home, putting her spare room on Airbnb two months after the vote.
   
“This is my antidote to Brexit,” she explained, calling it an “open door to Europe.”

Photo: AFP

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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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