Brits in France prepare to march on London over Brexit

Dozens of Brits in France are preparing for a trip to London to protest over the rights of British people living in Europe after Brexit.

Brits in France prepare to march on London over Brexit
Citizens rights group Remain in France Together. Photo: RIFT

Citizens rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT) and campaign group Europeans United are calling on as many Brits as possible to make the trip from France to make their voices heard in London in October.

There are two major campaign events planned in London for October. The first is the Rally 4 Our Rights on October 12th and is a rally (rather than a march) to be held in central London to demand that the rights of British citizens in Europe, and EU citizens in Britain, be protected after Brexit.

A previous anti Brexit march in London in March attracted more than 1 million people. Photo: AFP

The second event is the Let us Be Heard People's Vote march on October 19th, which is calling for a second referendum on the subject of Brexit to be held in the UK.

Leigh Chandler from RIFT urged as many people as possible to make the trip.

She said: “The rally on October 12th it will be more a sombre affair than a march (in fact it will be more static, so ideal for those unable to walk well) with guest speakers and a planned ‘open mic’ session to allow participation from the public.  The event has quickly picked up traction, and the organisers are expecting a very healthy turnout of supporters. 

“RIFT and Europeans United will also be there on October 19th with many UK in EU who want to march and protest against Brexit. 

“The organisers are expecting huge numbers of people as this may be the final protest before the expected day to exit Europe on October 31st. These marches although huge (the one earlier this year surpassed 1 million people) are extremely good natured and well organised.”

For more information on the events, or how to get involved if you cannot travel to the UK, visit the Europeans United Facebook page.

For those concerned about how Brexit will affect them, there is information on residency, healthcare and travel on the RIFT page and also in our Brexit section.

There are also a series of RIFT groups in different areas of France run by people living in those areas offering advice and support.

They are; RIFT Bourgogne Franche Comté, covering Departments 21, 25, 39, 58, 70, 71, 89 and 90. Rift Gironde, Deptartment 33. RIFT Pays de la Loire Departments, 44, 49, 53, 72 and 85. RIFT Poitou Charentes & Vendee, Departments 16, 17, 79, 85 and 86. RIFT Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Departments 62 and 59. Haute Savoie Community Forum, covering Department 74. RIFT in the Touraine and Berry, Departments 37,36, and 41. RIFT (in the Limousin), Departments 19, 23 and 87 RIFT Alpes Maritime, Department 06 RIFT Picardie, Departments 02, 60 and 80 RIFT in the Gers and Haute-Pyrénées 32 and 65 RIFT Alsace – Lorraine 54,55, 57, 67, 68 and 88 RIFT Outremer – Overseas French Territories RIFT – Languedoc Roussillon Départements 11, 30, 34, 48 and 66. RIFT in Brittany 22, 29, 35 and 56.

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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.