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BREXIT

Macron to May: The Brexit deal is ‘not renegotiable’

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the Brexit deal is the "best agreement possible and is not renegotiable", as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May pushed to reopen talks with Brussels.

Macron to May: The Brexit deal is 'not renegotiable'
File photo: Depositphotos
Macron's comments during a summit in Cyprus came as Prime Minister Theresa May appealed to British lawmakers to give her a mandate to renegotiate, after 
parliament rejected an accord reached with the European Union.
   
Macron urged the British government to “promptly” lay out to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier “the next steps that will prevent an exit without an agreement, which nobody wants but for which we must all prepare ourselves”.
   
With the deadline for Britain's divorce from the bloc just two months away, Brussels has insisted it will not budge on the December deal, which the House of Commons overwhelming rejected on January 15.
   
May's massive defeat heightened fears that Britain could leave the EU on March 29 with no new arrangements in place, prompting economic chaos on both sides of the English Channel.
 
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Brexit: What are Britons living in France supposed to do now?Photo: AFP

The British premier now backs a proposal to remove a controversial “backstop” clause on Northern Ireland from the agreement, with MPs set to vote from 1900 GMT on the way forward.

She has promised that if this passes, she will seek a “significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement” with the EU before Britain leaves the bloc as planned on March 29.
   
Amendments before the British parliament on Tuesday evening include ruling out a “no deal” Brexit, delaying exit day and returning to the negotiating table.
   
Brexit hardliners from May's Conservative party oppose the backstop, which could see Britain indefinitely tied to EU trade rules in order to keep open the border with the Republic of Ireland.
   
Following May's defeat this month, Macron said a transition period would be necessary “because the British cannot afford to no longer have planes taking off or landing at home, and their supermarkets, as much as 70 percent, are supplied by continental Europe”.
 
A presidential source said France was speeding up preparations for a “no deal” Brexit.

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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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