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BREXIT

France to ‘accelerate preparations for no-deal Brexit’

France is speeding up preparations for a "no deal" Brexit after the British parliament overwhelmingly rejected the agreement on the table, a French presidential source said Wednesday.

France to 'accelerate preparations for no-deal Brexit'
annieeagle/Depositphotos
“The scenario we don't want is a no deal and the risks multiplied yesterday,” the source said.
   
“The prime minister will meet tomorrow with the key ministers concerned to take stock of the preparations and accelerate them,” the source added.
   
Ministers had already scheduled a meeting to decide on France's response to the result of the British parliamentary vote.
 
France has like other European nations been preparing for a scenario in which Britain crashes out of the EU with no divorce deal, and has already been recruiting extra customs agents to be deployed in Channel ports.
 
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How to prepare for no-deal Brexit in France: Taxes, health and your carte de séjour

French employers' group MEDEF meanwhile called on the country's businesses to prepare for “the worst”.
   
“Yesterday's vote piled uncertainty upon uncertainty,” its chief Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux said.
   
Some 30,000 French companies export to Britain, according to the French finance ministry, with goods worth some 31 billion euros ($35.4 billion) in 2017.
 
The federation of French wine and spirits exporters (FEVS) expressed alarm over the situation. 
   
Britain is the second-biggest export market for French wines, after the United States, and France is a major importer of British spirits.
   
“This vote is prejudicial to the historical and fruitful trading relationship between our two countries,” FEVS president Antoine Leccia said, calling on British and EU leaders to “do everything possible to find an alternative political solution by March 29”.
   
French lawmakers have since November been debating a bill dealing with the Brexit fallout, which would potentially empower the government to issue emergency decrees if needed.
   
France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau said Wednesday that “If the British want to stay [in the EU ], they are very welcome.”
 
Loiseau added that the EU could extend the deadline for Brexit beyond March 29 if Britain made such a request but she stressed that other EU nations considered the deal already on the table to be “the only one possible”. 
   
President Emmanuel Macron late Tuesday indicated there was a small chance of only very minor tweaks being made to the agreement.
 
“Maybe we'll make improvements on one or two things, but I don't really think so because we've reached the maximum of what we could do with the deal,” he said.

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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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