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EUROSTAR

French Brexit protest: Eurostar warns delays set to continue for several days

Eurostar has warned that its services will be hit at Paris Gare du Nord until March 10th at least as French customs officers continue their work-to-rule industrial action to protest over pay and show the effect Brexit will have on cross-Channel passengers.

French Brexit protest: Eurostar warns delays set to continue for several days
Photo: AFP
The company announced on its website that it was “expecting sizeable delays and congestion in Paris Gare du Nord today (08/03/2018)”. 
 
However in the announcement in French it warned that these delays ere expected to last until March 10th as a result of customs officials staging “Brexit-style” security checks at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.
 
Passengers are being advised to travel “only if necessary” and if they do plan on travelling, “to get to the ticket gates at the time indicated on your tickets, arriving later could risk you missing your train.”
 
“Our services from Paris are currently delayed between 30 and 45 minutes,” Eurostar told The Local on Friday. 
 
However Eurostar passengers took to Twitter on Friday to express their frustration with the situation, with some saying that even though they had left enough time to check-in, they were still worried about missing their train. 
 
“Chaos at gare du nord. I've arrived in plenty of time for my train, way ahead of 'at departure gate time' but the queues are horrendous-what if I don't get to the departure zone by the deadline?” tweeted Ben Taylor. 
 
Another passenger tweeted: “We know Brexit is a crock of s*** but @Eurostar are determined to make the experience as joyless as.possible already. Check-in at Gare du Nord in Paris is sheer purgatory.”
 
 
 
On top of the delays caused by the industrial action, Eurostar has cancelled a number of services throughout March for operational reasons which is also disrupting travel. 
 
Meanwhile passenger services on the EuroTunnel were operating as usual and local newspaper La Voix Calais reported that there were no traffic problems on Friday on the A16 motorway (see tweet below). By comparison, on Thursday trucks were backed up for several kilometres along the same motorway.
 
 
 
What's the strike all about?
 
This is a protest that could run and run.
 
Vincent Thomazo from UNSA union told The Local on Wednesday that “it's a strike that might last a long time because officers are just doing their jobs.”
 
It began on Monday to press their demands for higher pay and demonstrate what will happen if greater controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, planned for later this month.
 
“Agents are doing longer checks than usual and it creates traffic jams immediately,” said Thomazo.
 
Thomazo said the extra checks would continue because customs' agents wanted to get the message across to the French government that they were simply not ready for Brexit.
 
“Our aim is to attract attention to our worsening conditions of work which will only get worse once Brexit happens,” Thomazo said.
 
“We are simply not ready. The administration has simply waited too long to get things in place,” he said.
 
The French government has announced the recruitment of an extra 700 customs officials, a number seen as insufficient by some unions.
 
Once Britain has left the EU “there will be stronger controls. Today you have a demonstration of what is going to happen,” said Philippe Bollengier from the CGT union.

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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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