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BREXIT

Calls and texts from France to other EU states to drop steeply

The price of phone calls and sending texts from France to people in other EU member states is set to drop in spring 2019. But will Britons get to benefit?

Calls and texts from France to other EU states to drop steeply
Photo: AFP
The four French mobile operators will be required to drop their rates following a vote by the EU parliament to cap the prices of calls and sending text messages from people in one member state to those in another.
 
For Brits living in France, with the change set to come into effect in May, it's unclear whether they will benefit from the price cut due to the fact that Britain is leaving the EU on March 29th. 
 
If Theresa May's much-criticized deal is ratified a transition period will come into affect on March 30th which means all EU rules and regulations, including on those covering mobile phones and roaming will continue to apply until December 2020.
 
After the transition period however or if Britain quits the EU without a deal the EU rules on mobile calls and texts won't apply.
 
Britons in France who support remaining in the EU, as well as 'Remainers' in the UK, have highlighted the move as one of the many benefits the European Union that are often ignored by critics.
 
“First roaming charges, now cheaper phone calls. This is yet another benefit of our EU membership we risk losing if we leave,” Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder previously told the Independent newspaper
 
“This new law means that calls home to loved ones whether you’re on holiday or on business will be cheaper just like roaming charges are. The British voters must have a final say on the Brexit deal with the option to stay in the EU with all its benefits,” she added. 
 
According to the recent text voted by the European Parliament, operators will no longer be able to bill a call from France to an EU country for more than 22.8 cents per minute and for a text message, the price must not exceed 7.2 cents per unit. 
 
This represents a significant drop in prices compared to those applied by most of France's four operators, Free, Orange. Bouygues and SFR at the moment, according to French consumer group Que Choisir.
 
The move follows the decision to scrap roaming charges within the EU which happened in June 2017. 
 
Among the mobile phone plans which have already integrated the change there is the 70GB Sensation package from Bouygues Telecom, Power 100GB and Premium Unlimited packages at SFR, as well as the 100 and 150GB packages marketed by Orange. 
 
READ ALSO:
Living in France: So which mobile phone provider should I go with?

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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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