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BREXIT

‘Life will continue after Brexit’ says France’s Europe minister

France's Europe minister says the country is preparing hard for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, but stressed that things will continue and agreements will be made after Britain leaves the EU.

'Life will continue after Brexit' says France's Europe minister
France's Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin. Photo: AFP

'No deal is one moment. But the next day goods will need to be exchanged, people will move, research will be done, security data will have to be exchanged, so the no-deal moment won't last forever,” said France's Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin, speaking in Paris.

“This future relationship will have to be organised quickly, this is why we all thought it was very wise to have a transition period to organise such a future relationship.

“So the assessment of the economic impact depends a lot on the nature of the future relationship . . . but there will be a future relationship.

“Here in France we have always respected the fact that this was a choice made by the British people.” 

But she added that there would be no bilateral 'mini deals' done before Brexit. 

She was speaking after a meeting in Paris of the 27 EU ambassadors on the subject of preparations for Brexit.

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Tens of thousands of lorries pass between France and the UK every day. Photo: AFP

France and Ireland, as the two closest neighbours of the UK, will potentially be the countries most affected by Britain leaving the EU.

France has stepped up its no-deal preparations in recent weeks with hundreds of new border and customs staff already in post and testing systems to be used in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The Europe Minister told journalists that France would be using as much technology as possible to create an “intelligent border” between the two countries.

Number plate recognition technology, barcodes and facial recognition will be used to make border crossings as smooth as possible, particularly for businesses, and France is sharing technical solutions with Ireland.

There are around five million trucks a year passing through the borders between the UK and France and authorities in northern France have been working on a “crisis management plan” in case of a no-deal Brexit for almost a year now.

France's Prime Minister also announced on Monday a new website would go live in October to allow British people already living in France to apply for their carte de séjour residency permit online.

France's official position is still that it is hoping for a deal but is making contingency plans for a no-deal and De Montchalin said that France still wants to have a close and “special” relationship with the UK after Brexit.

But on the issue of any further extension to Brexit, she stressed that it would have to be discussed in Europe – but only if the UK makes the request first.

She said: “It's not a wedding, but we still have to be asked.

“The only person who can make a request is the person who represents the UK at the table at the European Commission. Governments talk to the Commission – there is no such thing as parliament asking for an extension.”

She added that France had repeatedly said that there would need to be a change of circumstances in the UK – such as a new government or fresh elections – for an extension to be considered, saying: “diluting a very complex problem in time does not make it less complex”.

Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU on October 31st.

Although a majority in the British parliament has made it clear it does not want to leave without a deal by passing a motion blocking a no-deal exit, the country's Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than request a third extension from the EU.

 

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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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