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BREXIT

British pensioners in France and Spain face more struggle as pound slides to two-year low

As the British pound continues its fall against the Euro many headlines have focused on holidaymakers getting less spending money - but for people in France and Spain with an income from the UK, the situation is a lot more serious.

British pensioners in France and Spain face more struggle as pound slides to two-year low
Photo:Susan Sermoneta/flickr

While it is undoubtedly annoying when your hard-earned holiday money doesn't buy you as many euros as you had hoped, for many people currency fluctuations are a lot more serious.

Many British people in France and Spain are living on incomes that come from the UK, many of them on a private or state pension.

Some people also live in Europe and work remotely for a British company – meaning they get paid in pounds – while others receive income from rental properties or dividends from businesses or investments.

So a fluctuation in the exchange rate suddenly means less to spend.

And when the pound hits a two-year low as it did on Wednesday, the losses can be significant.

At 12 noon on Wednesday, the pound was trading at €1.09. That means that anyone who is on a fixed monthly income of £1,200 from the UK will now be getting €1,308 per month, compared to €1,548 at the start of June 2016 (before the Brexit referendum). Back in 1999, the same amount would have got you €1,800.

A loss of €240 a month is certainly significant and will hit many people hard, particularly pensioners who are often on low incomes anyway.

Speaking to The Local just after the referendum result in 2016, when the pound initially crashed Debbie Coxon, 62, who lives in central France's Creuse department said the steep drop in the pound meant having to use their savings to pay the bills.

 
And in yet more bad news economists are not predicting any any strong rallies, saying that ongoing political uncertainty is likely to weaken the pound for some tile.

“We see more British pound weakness to come. The current Sterling meltdown is in line with our view that risks are heavily skewed to the downside given the Brexit uncertainty and rising odds of an early election (our base case),” Petr Krpata, a foreign exchange analyst with ING Bank, told the British press.

We want to hear from British people living in France and Spain on how the currency slide has affected them, so please take a minute to share your experiences below.

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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