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BREXIT

Pound tumbles against euro again as British ministers quit over Brexit deal

The pound has dropped once again as several British government ministers resigned on Thursday morning in opposition to the Brexit withdrawal agreement, spelling bad news and more insecurity for British pensioners throughout Europe.

Pound tumbles against euro again as British ministers quit over Brexit deal
Photo: AFP

The pound saw its biggest drop in 17 months 0.5 per cent to below €1.14 as several top level British ministers quit their posts in protest over the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Among them were Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. 

“Brexit worries are sending shock waves through the currency markets,” Credit Agricole SA head of Group-of-10 currency strategy Valentin Marinov told Bloomberg. The pound is lower but “it seems that uncertainty could push it lower still.”

Naturally this latest fall — one of several since the result of the Brexit referendum was first announced back in 2016 — will leave British pensioners living in Europe who depend on a UK pension for their livelihoods once again worrying whether it will recover its losses. 

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Q&A on Brexit deal: Do I still need to get my carte de sejour?Photo: AFP

Before the referendum the pound was valued at almost €1.40 however after the vote the pound fell to €1.19.
 
A few months after the referendum, in October 2016, the pound was worth as little as €1.13 against the euro after suffering a dramatic collapse. 
 
The drops were largely as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the effects of Brexit on the UK economy and fears that leaving the EU could leave Britain's trading position in a disastrous situation. 

In the intervening months and years there have been reports of the sinking pound leaving British pensioners in France suffering hard from the squeeze. 

British pensioners have told The Local how much the weakening pound had changed their lives.  

“We are really struggling at the moment and it has made us very sad and angry, just for the sake of a political spat between friends. I shall never understand the mess that the referendum had caused,” Lynda Adcock who is in her 60s and living in Brittany previously told The Local. 
 
“The exchange rate means that we have to think about if we can put the heating on, what we eat and it has generally made a huge impact on our daily life. We always pay our bills first and keep a roof over our heads. That is what is important.”

 
While there have been moments of optimism which have seen the pound stabilise since the referendum result, including on Wednesday when the Brexit withdrawal agreement was approved by the British government, it seems like the currency is set for more tumultuous times ahead. 

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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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