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BREXIT

A no-deal Brexit is now ‘the most likely scenario’ say French officials

A no-deal Brexit is becoming the most likely scenario for Britain's departure from the European Union, a French presidential aide said on Wednesday, the day before Boris Johnson holds his first face-to-face meeting as premier with President Emmanuel Macron.

A no-deal Brexit is now 'the most likely scenario' say French officials
Britain's current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

“The scenario that is becoming the most likely is one of no deal,” said the official, who asked not to be named. 

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Boris Johnson is due to meet Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday for a working lunch. Photo: AFP

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, rejected Johnson's demand that the so-called “backstop” mechanism to avoid border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland be scrapped.

And he also contradicted Johnson's claim that if Britain leaves the EU without a deal it would not have to pay a €43 billion divorce bill that has already been negotiated.

“The scenario that is becoming the most likely is one of no deal,” the official said ahead of the first meeting between Macron and Johnson since the  British premier took office a month ago. 

“The idea of saying 'there's not a deal, so I won't pay' does not work,” the official said.

“We cannot imagine that a country like the UK would back  out of an international commitment.”

The official added: “There's no magic wand that makes this bill disappear.”  

The French official said that a letter sent by Johnson to EU Council President Donald Tusk on Monday asking for what he called the “anti-democratic” backstop to be withdrawn “posed a problem” for the whole EU. 

The backstop is a mechanism to avoid border checks between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, with checkpoints there removed as part of a 1998 peace deal on the divided island.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday of the economic impact of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, hours before she was to receive Johnson on his first foreign visit.

The current Brexit day is October 31st and Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that the UK will be leaving on that date, with or without a deal.

Brexit has previously been scheduled for March 29th and April 12th, but was postponed as previous Prime Minister Theresa May attempted to get British MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement she had negotiated with the EU, but with no success.

The official added that France did not expect Johnson to seek an extension to the October 31st deadline, but the EU would be ready to grant one in case there were new elections called.

And he dismissed any notion that there were differences between Macron and Merkel on the issue of Brexit, which he said would cause economic harm to the EU and Britain, but mostly for Britain.

“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” he said.

Member comments

  1. BoJo seems to be living in his own London Bubble of cloud cuckoo land, and being influenced by an unelected ‘aide’. It’s time he started to appreciate the realities of most of the UK’s citizens who have to do ‘real’ work for much less money than MPs and Ministers earn.

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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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