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BREXIT

‘Don’t provoke us’ – French warn Boris Johnson to behave on his trip to see Macron

Boris Johnson will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in the next few weeks, French officials said on Friday, while warning the new British premier against "posturing" and "provocations."

'Don't provoke us' - French warn Boris Johnson to behave on his trip to see Macron
Boris Johnson: Photo: AFP

The 41-year-old French leader, who has said he is happy to be considered the “bad guy” in the Brexit negotiations, is set to be a key figure during the tricky and potentially bad-tempered talks in the months ahead.

Macron extended the invitation to Johnson in a call late Thursday from his official summer vacation residence in the south of France, the fort of Bregancon, where he is expected to stay for the next three weeks, said an aide.

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The Macrons are currently at the French president's official summer house in the south of France. Photo: AFP

But in a sign of wariness in France about Johnson's anti-EU rhetoric, France's Europe Minister Amélie de Montchalin urged Britain's new leader to work on creating a working relationship with his partners on the continent.

“From our side, we need to be responsible,” she told France 2 television. 

“That means being clear, predictable and it means on the other side that we need to create a working relationship, that there aren't games, posturing, provocations.”

The timing of the meeting between Macron and Johnson was unclear. The British prime minister is due in France to attend the G7 meeting of developed nations in Biarritz on August 24th to 26th.

“In any case, we want to work with him .. and we need to,” Montchalin added.

Last year, Macron broke away from his time off to host then British prime minister Theresa May as she sought new concessions in her ultimately doomed bid to bring Britain out of the European Union.

 'Combative' Johnson 

In their conversation, Macron congratulated Johnson on becoming prime minister and emphasised his desire for close Franco-British ties, the presidential official said, reflecting his hope for a strong defence and economic relationship post-Brexit.

But they steered clear of the vexed subject of Britain's departure from the bloc, the aide added, agreeing that the issue would be discussed in the next few weeks.

Macron, a devoted Europhile who is seeking to deepen links between EU members, views Brexit as an act of self-harm by Britain and he has been highly critical of Johnson personally in the past.

Johnson insists he wants to renegotiate a divorce deal which was drafted by his predecessor May over the last two years, only to see it rejected by British MPs three times in parliament.

But the EU has already said it will not reopen the negotiations on the terms of Britain's departure. 

Johnson has staked his reputation on bringing Britain out of the EU by the current October 31st deadline, meaning that if new negotiations are refused the UK would crash out without a deal in place.

Both Britain and the European Union are now set to accelerate preparations for this scenario, which economists say would have major economic repercussions. 

“No deal will never be the EU's choice, but we all have to be ready for all scenarios,” the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wrote in an email sent to EU ambassadors on Thursday.

Barnier also noted the “combative” tone of Johnson's first speech as premier in parliament on Thursday. 

“In this negotiation, if we want to force Boris Johnson's hand, we need to prepare for no-deal and show that we're not scared,” a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity on Thursday. “He needs to know that we are ready for a no-deal.”

Johnson on Thursday told British lawmakers that the current deal on the table was “unacceptable” and he urged the EU to “rethink” its opposition to renegotiating it. 

The former foreign secretary has also threatened to withhold the £39 billion divorce bill that Britain has previously said it owes  the European Union and spend it instead on preparing for a no-deal outcome.

Member comments

  1. The ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ is a misnomer since the UK Parliament ( and now the UK Government ) has overwhelmingly rejected it. There is no Agreement and come the 31 October the so-called Agreement will just be waste paper.

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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