SHARE
COPY LINK

BREXIT

EU agrees to three-month Brexit ‘flextension’

The EU has agreed a three-month Brexit 'flextension' until January 31st 2020, which gives the UK the option of leaving before then if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.

EU agrees to three-month Brexit 'flextension'
European Council president Donald Tusk with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

The President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced the agreement on Twitter on Monday morning.

He called the extension a “flextension” – a flexible extension – meaning that if MPs in London approve the Brexit deal, then the UK could leave the EU sooner than January 31st.

If the UK parliament does ratify Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement then it is believed the UK would leave the EU on the first day of the following month, so December 1st or January 1st.

The announcement of the extension had been expected on Friday but was delayed after the French objected to a longer extension unless there was a guarantee of a general election.

But on Monday morning, in a sign the French had agreed to drop their demand for a shorter extension, a diplomatic source hinted that a three-month delay was “very probable”.

The indication by a French source said that a potential three-month extension is hugely significant given that Paris was always seen as the major EU player most wary of another delay.

French president Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly expressed impatience over the repeated postponements of Brexit, saying they are getting in the way of his vision of reforming the European Union. 

“The conditions of the extension have been specified and reinforced, notably on the fact that the deal (reached between Britain and the EU) is not renegotiable,” added the French source.

“France insisted on the necessary conditions to preserve the unity of the 27 (remaining members of the EU).”

British lawmakers are due to vote Monday afternoon on Johnson's call for an early election to be held on December 12th.

The French source said that the chance of elections in Britain – which could result in a reconfigured parliament and help Johnson push through the deal – had “clearly strengthened over the weekend.”

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, who oppose Brexit, said over the weekend they could back the snap elections under certain conditions.

Member comments

  1. So, they don’t really want the people to have their vote. They voted to leave and that should be honored. If not, the people don’t have a vote. No one is “owed” a deal. Leave now.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS