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BREXIT

‘It’s up to UK’: Macron says Brexit is Britain’s domestic crisis not Europe’s

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday warned Britain that Brexit was a "British domestic crisis" and it would have to take responsibility for how it leaves the European Union.

'It's up to UK': Macron says Brexit is Britain's domestic crisis not Europe's
AFP: JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA /

“Brexit is a British domestic crisis, not a European one,” Macron said, adding that what was important now was to finalise negotiations and see if there was “something that I hope could fly.” 

But he added: “At the very end this is a British responsiblity” on whether it leaves the EU with or without a deal or even cancels the Brexit process outright.

Macron said it was time to resolve the issue as “we have already spent a lot of time” on discussing Brexit and the priority now was to discuss Britain's future relationship with the EU.

“We have to prepare the future,” he said, speaking in English in the French city of Lyon.

Time is running out to sign off on any agreement at an October 17-18 EU summit, ahead of Britain's scheduled departure from the bloc at the end of the month after nearly five decades of membership.

Macron's comments came just before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar said they could see a “pathway” towards striking a possible Brexit divorce deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has given Boris Johnson until the end of the week to come up with a proposal that is acceptable to the European Union.

After a phone call with Johnson at the weekend Macron “indicated that the negotiations should continue rapidly in the coming days, with the team of (France's EU negotiator Michel Barnier), in order to evaluate at the end of next week whether an accord is possible, while respecting the principles of the European Union,” the statement said.

London hinted Sunday that it could soften its position on “problematic” aspects of its Brexit plan, while calling on the EU to show “flexibility”.

Difficult discussions on Brexit are set to resume Monday between the British and the Europeans, who have broadly rejected Johnson's bid to avoid a “no-deal” Brexit on October 31st.

Macron will host German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a working dinner Sunday, just days before 
an EU summit seen as the last chance for reaching a deal on Britain's looming exit from the bloc.

The two leaders will meet to prepare a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a traditional gathering between their governments that will take place this year in the southwest French city of Toulouse.

The next day EU leaders will gather in Brussels for what is billed as a pivotal meeting for hammering out the divorce terms for Brexit, set for the end of this month.

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that a deal on Britain's withdrawal was “very difficult but possible” to achieve before next week's summit.

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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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