OPINION: Having a second Brexit referendum is the only way ‘to take back control’
Isn’t it high time we “took back control” of the referendum process to establish if leaving the EU really is the “will of the people”, argues Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain.
Published: 11 March 2019 09:55 CET
Since the fateful day of 23 June 2016, I have never been able to respect the result of the Brexit referendum.
At first, my lack of acceptance was due to my reaction of shock, anger and sadness. It was then exacerbated by the emerging lies and misinformation of the Vote Leave campaign, which persuaded so many people to vote the way they did, through no fault of their own.
Over time, it has become increasingly clear that the people behind the lies and misinformation were complicit in breaking the law, including some senior members of government.
The Vote Leave Campaign were fined the maximum amount possible by the Electoral Commission, having exceeded legal spending limits, especially in the run-up to the referendum. Vote Leave was subsequently referred to the Metropolitan Police and National Crime Agency to answer possible criminal charges.
Several months later, we still await the outcome – or any news whatsoever – of those investigations.
Recently, I took Theresa May to court, through the UK in EU Challenge, to question the validity of the referendum result. The premise of our case, known as “Wilson vs. The Prime Minister”, was that the illegal activity renders the result of the referendum unsound, and that the Prime Minister made an error of judgement in activating Article 50 in the belief she was acting on the “will of the people”.
Our legal team believes that Leave’s overspend directly affected the referendum result and, even if it hadn’t, the result was still invalid.
Just think: if an athlete won an Olympic gold medal and was later discovered to have taken drugs, they would forfeit the medal and the win, even if they claimed that they would have won anyway, without cheating.
When electoral rules are broken in a general or local election, the result of the election is overturned. Had the Brexit referendum been binding in law, those same rules would apply.
However, it was an advisory referendum, so was not bound by those rules. The fact that the government decided to act as if it were binding was considered irrelevant by the justices hearing our case.
Accusing pro-Europeans of being undemocratic or of failing to respect the referendum result is a favourite argument of Brexiters. Despite the narrowest of margins, our country and parliament have been asked to accept the referendum result, even though many consider it unsound.
Ironically, we don’t hear mention of respecting the result of the first ‘meaningful vote’ by parliament, despite May’s defeat by the largest margin in British political history.
Rather, parliament is being given another vote to see if it has changed its’ mind, while the public is being denied the same opportunity.
Furthermore, rumours coming from Westminster suggest that if May’s second vote fails, as expected, on March 12, she’s already considering a ‘meaningful vote’
Many Leave voters would accept any version of Brexit, regardless of the potential damage to their country, so long as the UK leaves the EU – such is their desire to cut all ties.
These voters are entitled to their views, just as I am entitled to my view – that Brexit is complete and utter madness.
Then there are those who voted Leave directly because of lies and false promises. May’s current version of Brexit bears no resemblance to what Farage, Johnson, Gove and others led them to expect.
Meanwhile, some Remain voters are so sick of the current scenario that they simply want Brexit to be over, no matter what. With speculation that negotiations may go on for the next five to ten years should we proceed, the only logical way to avoid Brexit dragging on for years is to halt it altogether.
Whatever kind of Brexit you voted for, or against, I’m pretty sure that none of us wanted a major change in the UK’s future to be determined by criminal activity and foreign funding.
If it’s reasonable and appropriate to give parliament another say, surely the British public should be given another chance to answer the question?
I have never, can never, will never respect the result of the 2016 Referendum result.
I will, however, respect the result of the next one – if it is conducted in a fair, honest and legal way – even if I don’t like the result.
We may have lost our court case, but the issues we raised are now in the public domain.
The media and politicians are finally starting to ask the right questions and hopefully the guilty parties will soon face the full force of the law.
When we finally achieve another referendum – this time on the content of the deal, rather than a fantasy version of Brexit – the least we should expect is that it will be conducted under much stricter scrutiny.
Isn’t it high time we “took back control” of the referendum process to establish if leaving the EU really is the “will of the people”? If it is, so be it – I will have to live with that – but more likely we’ll soon discover it’s no longer what the majority wants, if it ever was.
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain, a member of the British in Europe coalition.
‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit
Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.
Published: 26 January 2023 08:01 CET
Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.
The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres.
Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork.
Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.
“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”
“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022.
“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”
Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.
Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”.
“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote.
“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”
Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.
“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”
Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.
“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”
Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.
“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.
Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.
They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.
Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.
“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”
Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”.
“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said.
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