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BREXIT

EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay

After hours of uncertainty, divisions and deliberation, the European Council agreed to extend Brexit Day until May 22nd, but only if the deal is approved by the UK parliament. If not then the Theresa May has until April 12th to come up with a new plan or take the UK out of Europe without a deal.

EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay
EU Commission President Juncker (L) and European Council President Tusk (R) speak during a press conference at the European Summit on March 21st 2019, in Brussels. Photo: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

There will be no Brexit for at least April 12th – just under three weeks. 

The EU unanimously agreed at the European Council summit in Brussels to approve a short extension to Article 50, albeit with distinct conditions.

Theresa May had requested an extension up until June 30th but EU leaders granted one until May 22nd if the framework for future cooperation, known as the Withdrawal Agreement or 'the deal', is approved by the House of Commons next week.

According to Reuters news agency Emmanuel Macron told fellow EU leaders that May only has a five percent chance of winning the vote next week, after hearing the prime minister's speech on Thursday.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council said Macron was being optimistic.

If British Prime Minister Theresa May cannot find consent for her deal among MPs, she will once again have to take her begging bowl to Brussels to seek a further extension and offer a clear plan to move forward by April 12th. 

“The European Council agrees to an extension until 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council,” reads a statement by the EU Council issued late on the night of Thursday March 21st.

Theresa May' now has to convince some of the 149 MPs who voted against her exit deal just 10 days ago to vote for the same deal. 

The brief respite means the UK will not crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29th as previously scheduled – although the specter of a no-deal scenario remains a distinct possibility given the UK parliament's inability to reach a compromise so far. 

“The European Council calls for work to be continued on preparedness and contingency at all levels for the consequences of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, taking into account all possible outcomes,” adds the EU Council's statement. 

The length of the extension was the subject of much discussion at the summit, with France and Belgium reportedly pushing for a May 7th Brexit Day, as supposed to May 22nd. The EU Council's decision to cut the period of extension requested by the UK government is designed to prevent the UK from having to hold EU parliamentary elections from May23rd to May 26th. 

French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that this was the last spin of the dice, warning that a no-deal scenario was the only alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement. “We have to be clear on Brexit, to ourselves, to our British friends and to our people. The Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated. If the UK votes negatively, we'll head towards a no-deal,” tweeted Macron. 

PM May will now attempt to get the same deal, which has been vehemently rejected so far by the UK lower house in two votes, approved by parliament next week. Rights activists representing the 1.2 million UK nationals in Europe and the 3.6 EU nationals in the UK are planning a March on Saturday in London. 

Meanwhile a petition to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit has reached nearly 2.5 million signatures in two days. 

READ ALSO: French president Macron warns of no-deal Brexit 'for sure' if British MPs reject May's deal

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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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