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Brexit expected to be postponed again at crunch meeting of EU leaders

European leaders were expected to postpone Brexit once again on Wednesday, when Prime Minister Theresa May comes to another last-ditch summit still without a ratified divorce deal.

Brexit expected to be postponed again at crunch meeting of EU leaders
Theresa May visited Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May toured Paris and Berlin on Tuesday to plead for an extension to the deadline for Brexit, which looked increasingly likely to be approved by EU leaders at a crunch meeting in Brussels.

May has asked for a second extension to the deadline for Britain's exit from the European Union from April 12th to June 30th, which is set to be discussed by her EU partners on Wednesday.

READ ALSO French government's decree for no-deal Brexit: What it means for you


Theresa May also visited Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

After flying to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, May visited French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris who is seen as a hardliner in the negotiations and a key voice at the EU negotiating table.

Having raised doubts about whether an extension would be granted last week, meaning that Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal, an aide to the French president underlined on Tuesday that France was open to solutions.

“We've never been closed to the idea of finding an alternative solution to 'no deal' within certain limits and not at any price,” the aide said on condition of anonymity.

Discussions in Brussels are set to focus on conditions such as length – the French aide said a 12-month extension “seems too long” – and arrangements to limit Britain's influence within the EU during this time.

“There would be a transition period for the United Kingdom as an intermediary member, which is present and applying the rules, but not taking part in decision making,” the aide said.

“There would need to be clear commitments and then a mechanism for monitoring them,” they added.

EU members are keen to ensure Britain does not have a say on issues such as the next head of the European Commission, which will be decided shortly, or the next five-year budget for the EU.

May is hoping the extra time, if granted by EU leaders, will enable her to finally get a divorce deal through parliament.

British MPs have rejected a deal May negotiated with the EU three times, but the PM is now in talks with the opposition Labour party to try break the deadlock.

These discussions are moving slowly, and EU negotiator Michel Barnier said May must explain in Brussels what another postponement would achieve.

“The length of the extension must be linked to the purpose – what it's for – and that depends on what Mrs May will say to European leaders tomorrow,” he told reporters after a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.

A “no deal” – in which Britain crashes out of the EU – is still a possibility, but expectations of an extension helped lift the value of the pound on financial markets on Tuesday. 

“There will be a real discussion. Things have not been written in advance,” the French aide said of the leaders' summit in Brussels, adding that a “no deal” could not be ruled out.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that Britain risks a serious shock if it leaves the EU without an agreement.

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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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