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BREXIT

Brexit vote: ‘It’s now time to take the rights of Britons off the negotiating table’

The UK parliament rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal again on Tuesday. Rights groups, as well as political and business leaders in the EU, reacted with dismay and a sense of resignation.

Brexit vote: 'It's now time to take the rights of Britons off the negotiating table'
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal, in the House of Commons in London on March 12, 2019. Photo: AFP/PRU.

Theresa May's eleventh-hour trip to Strasbourg to get last minute assurances from EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker meant little to British MPs who overwhelmingly rejected her deal once again.

A majority of 149 MPs rejected the terms of the withdrawal agreement she had negotiated with Brussels.

A subsequent vote on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal is now scheduled for Wednesday March 13th. If MPs take a no-deal off the table, another vote on an extension to Article 50 will be held on Thursday March 14th. 

Rights of UKinEU and EUinUK in peril

After the vote citizens rights activists were left feeling more insecure about their futures than ever.

“Tonight we've taken a step even further into uncertainty on our rights. Everyone needs to remember that a vote tomorrow against a no deal doesn't actually stop a no deal exit – only an approved withdrawal agreement or revocation of Article 50 can do that,” Kalba Meadows, coordinator of rights advocacy group Remain in France Together, (RIFT) told The Local.

“So more than ever we need the European Council to ring fence our rights – the risks are very high. And an extension doesn't remove those risks – the same choices between deal, no deal and revocation still exist, whenever a new Article 50 date is. The 5 million Brits in the EU and EU citizens in the UK have spent nearly 3 years in limbo, and we're suffering. Only ring-fencing can give us the security we need right now,” adds Meadows.

Jane Golding chair of British in Europe echoed the call to immediately ring-fence the rights of Britons in the EU.

“This vote result is no surprise. But there are only 17 days to go until 29 March and people still don’t know what their status will be, whether they will be able to travel and re-enter the countries where they live, what will happen if they are applying for jobs, or to their pension contributions and healthcare if they are pensioners,” she told The Local.

“No deal is a disaster which is why once again we call on the EU and the UK to ringfence the citizens' rights part of the withdrawal agreement now, before it's too late to take real people's lives' off the negotiating table’.  It’s about our fundamental rights and the promises that were made to us,” she said.

European political and business leaders reacted with dismay and disappointment to the vote. 

The French president said he “regretted” the vote by the British parliament.

“The solution to this impasse can only be found in London,” read a statement from the Elysée.

“Gordian Brexit node remains unresolved”

“The decision of the British House of Commons is a bitter disappointment from an economic point of view. The danger of unregulated withdrawal from the EU and the associated economic and legal uncertainty continues to hover over the economy. In addition to significant new Brexit bureaucracy, the demolition of supply chains and a breakdown of “just-in-time” productions in the UK are threatening,” Eric Schweitzer, president of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement.

In addition, more than 10 million customs declarations and several billion euros in customs duties would be due annually for German companies. The companies still have no planning certainty in the UK business. Therefore, companies should prepare now at the latest on the basis of the DIHK Brexit checklist. Unfortunately, the Gordian Brexit node remains unresolved,” added Schweitzer.

“The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our “no-deal” preparations are now more important than ever before,” tweeted the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

His thoughts we echoed by MPs and leaders in Spain, France, Sweden and Germany.

It now remains to be seen if the UK parliament will opt for an extension to Article 50 and if the EU would even grant one. The next EU Council summit on March 21st-22nd could be when we find out. 

READ MORE: RECAP: 'We've taken a step further into uncertainty on our rights': UK nationals in EU react to May's defeat

 

Member comments

  1. Theresa May MUST have been a paid sock-puppet of the nihilst fake-“Libertarian” billianaires, Russian Mafia and other Gleeful Destroyers — from day one. No one could have been as STAGGERINGLY incompetent as she (and her fellow Professional Thief Tory accomplices) have been. That feigned “incompetence” can only be explained as her and her Overlords’ deliberate effort to wreck Britain, so that THEY can “pick up the pieces” . . . for a song.

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VISAS

‘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’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

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.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

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

Appointments

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.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“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.

Second-home owners

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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