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BREXIT

What you need to know about voting in the crucial European elections

The UK on Tuesday confirmed that it will be taking part in the upcoming European elections, so here's what you need to know about voting and indeed which country to vote in.

What you need to know about voting in the crucial European elections
In a surprising development, the UK will now be taking part in European elections. Photo vepar5/Depositphotos

Can I still vote in the UK even if I live abroad?

Yes, provided you have been out of the country for less than 15 years you are entitled to a vote.

The deadline to register as a new voter has already passed, as has the deadline to register for postal votes, but there is still (just about) enough time to register for a proxy vote.

If you are already on the electoral roll in England, Scotland or Wales (the deadline has already passed for Northern Ireland) you can register for a proxy vote and ask someone else to cast your vote for you. Your proxy needs to live in the constituency you were last registered to vote in, but there are no restrictions on who that person can be (family member, friend, neighbour, former colleague, it's up to you).

 

The deadline for registering for a proxy vote is 5pm UK time on Wednesday, May 15 and you can register here.

Where do I vote, in the UK as a UK citizen or in the country where I live?

Basically it's your choice. EU nationals living in another country can choose whether to cast their vote in their original homeland or – if they are already on the electoral roll there – their adopted home. 

What you cannot do is vote twice. In the words of Bucks Fizz, it's time for making your mind up.

READ ALSO Who can I vote for in France and what are the big issues?

OPINION: The déja vu of the European election polls masks a dangerous game in French democracy 


Polling day varies from country to country

When are the European elections?

The elections take place between Thursday May 23rd and Sunday May 26th, depending on what country you are in.

For example in the Netherlands and the UK, voting will take place on May 23rd while in France polls will open on Sunday 26th.The results won't be announced until polls close in the last countries to vote.

These European elections were not supposed to involve the UK given that they were due to leave the EU on March 29th and then again on April 12th.

The country has been given an extension until October 31st, but if it had got a deal sorted before then, there was still the possibility that it would not be involved in the elections.

However Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the BBC on Tuesday: “Given how little time there is, it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that's legally due for the European Parliamentary elections.

“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted… so that those elections did not have to take place, but legally they do have to take place unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect.”

Why would I want to vote in the UK?

Do you want to register your anger against Brexit? Then read on.

Generally, European elections in the UK have had an extremely low turnout – just 35 percent of people voted in the 2014 European elections – but this time it could be different. Europe is the issue that has convulsed the entire country for the past three years, polarising opinion among voters.

This is likely to lead to a higher turnout, and polls have also indicated that voters could use the European elections to punish the Conservative party for the ongoing Brexit mess. Some polls are even predicting that the Conservative party could come in sixth place.

Paradoxically, the anti-Europe party UKIP has previously done well at European elections and the party returned 24 MEPs to the European parliament in 2014. This time former UKIP leader and current MEP Nigel Farage has created a new 'Brexit' party, which is polling high, while UKIP is predicted to take eight percent of the vote.

On the other hand the pro-Remain party Change UK – recently formed from disaffected Tory and Labour MPs and lead by Heidi Allen – the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are all standing on anti-Brexit platforms.

While voters still seem a long way from being given the chance to vote in a second referendum, the European Elections are increasingly being seen as a way voters can at least punish those individuals and parties who backed Brexit and show their desire to remain part of Europe.

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Much as I appreciate The Local’s reporting and advice to expatriates, I take exception to the idea that all European Britons must oppose Brexit. I, as far as Brits go, am as European as they come. I have lived and worked for 37 years in EU countries other than the UK, I speak three European languages apart from English and have had three wives, all from EU countries other than the UK.

    And yet I campaigned for Brexit. Why? Because the EU-concept is fundamentally flawed, and always has been.
    The blueprint for what is now the EU was drawn by two Frenchmen, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. Having seen that Germany, principal beneficiary of the Marshall Plan, was set to regain its position as the economic powerhouse of Europe, decided that the best way to counter this development was to create a Common Market, starting with coal and steel. This might enable France to exercise joint hegemony with Germany over the rest of Europe.

    German Chancellor Adenauer put a stop to that idea and drove Germany to the pre-eminent economic position it enjoys to this day.

    Those who took on the task of transforming the ECSC into the EEC, then the EU, failed to understand that a supra-national structure in Europe had to be underpinned by harmonization of taxation and social security. Nor did they address the issue, at the heart of Brexit, of how much sovereignty individual nations could, or should, surrender to a supra-national governance.

    Brusselization, to use the term coined by the German journalist Jochen Bittner, allows Great Britain to be largely governed by unelected EU commissioners (not that Britain’s own elected representatives in the Commons are doing a particularly good job). This is unacceptable.
    Of course, the current situation is entirely the fault of David Cameron. Yes, it would have been better for Britain to remain in the EU and reform it from within. Yes, he would have done better to approach Chancellor Merkel with his shopping list for Britain before she became distracted by a migrant crisis of her own making. But, not only did he decide to put British membership of the EU to a referendum (fair enough), but he reduced the question to a simple Yes or No without making a British withdrawal conditional on any form of agreement with the EU. Had he qualified the Leave vote in some way, the referendum result would probably have been a small majority for Remain, as Cameron expected.

    There is no need to be put off by the prophets of doom. There are 167 countries in the world which are NOT members of the EU. After Brexit there will be 168.

    I currently live in Florida. But the US is fast becoming a banana republic, so I am thinking of returning to France (which is also a banana republic but the only one in which you can get a decent steak tartare/frites), because France is the source of most of my pension income.

    Yes, Brexit will cause me some personal inconvenience. But it the right solution for Britain.

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READER QUESTIONS

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Over the summer people living in France have received their tax bills, and some Brits who are residents here will have noticed that their bill is larger than usual - here's why.

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Brits who live in France and make a tax declaration here, but have income from the UK, may have noticed that their tax bill has increased this year – here’s why and whether you can challenge the increase. 

Brexit

Yes, this is Brexit related and it refers to social charges on non-French income. The standard rate for these charges are 7.5 percent for income from an EU country and 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country.

The tax bills received over the summer relate to the annual French tax declaration filed in April 2022, covering the 2021 tax year. In other words, the first year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Social charges

Social charges are levies with a social purpose introduced in France in the 1990s to finance the country’s complex social security system.

If you have a French payslip you will already be familiar with them, and they actually make up the bulk of deductions from salaries, significantly more than income tax.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

One of the big questions is whether France’s social charges are actually a ‘tax’ – the government repeatedly insists they’re not, for all that they look like a tax and are paid like a tax. 

The position on French social charges has changed several times in recent years, sometimes in response to court action all centred on whether this money that government deducts from your income can be called a ‘tax’ or not.

Katey Murray, at The Spectrum IFA Group, explained: “Article 29 of the amended Finance law of 2012 extended social charges to rental income from French properties and capital gains on properties for people who are not French tax resident.

“In 2015, a Dutch national challenged the fact that he was paying social charges in France and social security contributions in the Netherlands. The case went before the ECJ, which ruled these levies were similar to social security contributions and therefore contrary to European law.”

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, confirmed the ECJ’s ruling. “French tax offices then, if a claim was made to them, reimbursed undue social charges,” Murray said.

“However, the French Government stated that these claims could only be made by someone covered for their healthcare by the system of another European country (EU, EEA or Switzerland) and not someone covered by a non-European health system. 

“This was confirmed by the ECJ for a French national living in China in a case in January 2018.”

Foreigners in France

And it’s this ‘healthcare system’ distinction that has become the key detail for Brits in France, clarified by a court ruling from March 2022 on the details of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

Social charges are currently set at 7.5 percent for income from an EU country, or 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country. So income from the UK jumped to the higher rate at the end of the Brexit transition period.

However the ECJ ruling on healthcare cover is the key bit – essentially if you are already contributing to another European country’s social security system, you benefit from the lower rate.

This mainly affects two groups – Brits living in the UK (and therefore covered by the NHS) who have income in France, and Brits who are living in France and who have an S1, which states that their healthcare costs are covered by the NHS.

S1 holders are mainly British pensioners living in France, but the scheme can also apply to other groups including students and posted workers. 

Brits who are living in France and are covered by the French health system pay the higher rate on income from the UK. 

Technically the 7.5 percent rate is a ‘social levy’ rather than the prélèvements sociaux.

The ‘social levy’ is not charged on pensions, so if you are an S1 holder who receives a British pension, you will not have to pay any social charges at all, while certain types of property income may also be exempt from social charges.

Tax

As we stated above, social charges are not a tax (although they are deducted from your income by the tax office).

Taxes on income from the UK is covered by the bilateral dual-taxation treaty between France and the UK, which states that you don’t have to pay tax in France on income that you have already paid tax on in the UK. 

So the first thing to check on your tax bill is whether deductions relate to impôt (tax) or prélèvements sociaux (social charges).

Challenge your tax bill

So what to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged on income from the UK?

If you are an S1 holder, it’s a case of telling the tax office that you benefit from the lower 7.5 percent social levy, rather than the 17.2 percent social charge.

Murray said: “You can state that you are not subject to social charges by ticking boxes 8SH/8SI on your tax form (2042 form) or, if you have been charged at the higher rate, you can claim them back on your personal page on the impots.gouv.fr website.”

If the over-charge relates to a different issue – for example you have been charged both tax and the social charge or charged on exempt income – your first step is talking to the tax office, either in person or over the phone.

READ ALSO How to challenge your French tax bill

This article is a general overview of the tax rules and is not intended as a substitute for financial advice, if your financial affairs are complicated you are always better off getting professional help from an accountant who specialises in international taxation.

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