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BREXIT

Johnson: British people in France should be ‘treasured and supported’ after Brexit

Boris Johnson says he wants British people living in France to be "treasured and supported" after Brexit.

Johnson: British people in France should be 'treasured and supported' after Brexit
Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysées Palace in Paris. Photo: AFP

Speaking at a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris, the British Prime Minister said: “London remains one of the biggest concentrations of French citizens on earth and long may it so remain.

“And I know of course, Monsieur le President, you will want to treasure and support the hundreds of thousands of British citizens here in France.”

Macron responded to his comment with a smile and a nod.

 

There were no further details forthcoming on the status of UK citizens in the EU, or EU citizens living in the UK.

An upbeat Johnson said that he still wanted Britain to leave the EU with a deal, but reiterated that Brexit would be happening on October 31st, “deal or no deal”.

He added that he sees “readily available solutions” for the Irish border, but a stern-faced Macron reiterated that the backstop was in place to balance the deamnds of peace and stability in Ireland and the integrity of the European market.

“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, adding it was possible to “find something intelligent” in the next 30 days.

But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson's calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.

At stake is the so-called “backstop”, which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.

Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.

“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”

The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.

“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the  Elysee palace in central Paris.

Since Johnson's ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.

 

“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a 'no deal' outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.

The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson's first foreign trip as prime minister.

On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.


Johnson with Angela Merkel in Berlin. Photo: AFP

“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”

He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. 

“I admire that 'can do' spirit that she seemed to have.”

But many Brexit watchers see Merkel's remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.

“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”

“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.

The two gave a brief joint press conference before a working lunch at the Elysées Palace.

They will be among the world leaders gathering in Biarritz on Saturday for the G7 conference.

Member comments

  1. If anyone believes what the court jester says they are simple. This two-faced backstabber is only in it for himself.

  2. After all his previous machinations to get himself made PM at any cost (including ruining the economy of the UK and loss of so many jobs already and even more in the pipeline) why would anyone believe this bumbling joker who seems to think everything is a lark. He is well cushioned to deal with Brexit mayhem; most British citizens are not and he is playing a very dangerous game with millions of people’s live in the UK and EU.

  3. Boris is undescribable…..Macron, like him or not, will not be bullied by the bafoon’s veiled threa. How insulting to the president to put his nasty English public school foot on the table.

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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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