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BREXIT

Brexit: ‘Brits in France shouldn’t worry about delay to carte de séjour website’

The head of citizens' rights group France Rights has said that despite the three-month relaunch delay of the website which allows Brits to apply for a post-Brexit residency permit, those affected shouldn’t be concerned.

Brexit: 'Brits in France shouldn't worry about delay to carte de séjour website'
Photo: AFP

Kalba Meadows, head of citizens' rights group France Rights, posted a message on the “France Rights: British in Europe – France” Facebook group following the announcement by the French government that the carte de séjour website will go live on October 1st, rather than the originally intended date of July 1st.

“Having spoken yesterday evening to a senior member of the Embassy team, it was confirmed that as we thought the Ministry of the Interior made the decision to delay late on Friday afternoon,” Meadows explained.

READ MORE: France delays relaunch of residency permit website for British citizens

“The main reason for the delay is that due to Covid, préfectures have a three-month backlog of residence permits to process and wouldn't be able to give the necessary care and focus to processing ours as well.

“We do understand that Covid has affected things in this way, but it's unfortunate that the decision came so late in the day and was poorly communicated – to our knowledge there has been no press statement – so many people are likely to still be unaware.” 

Under the terms of the Brexit deal, Britons will have to apply for special residency permits that will specifically state they are protected by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Brits have until December 31st, 2020 to become legally resident in France and then will have until at least the end of June 2021 to make the application.

France announced back in January that it would be creating a new online process, and despite the widespread chaos caused by the coronavirus epidemic and following lockdown, it had seemed that the site was still on course to open in July as planned.

“We completely understand that people are worried by the delay,” Meadows went on to say.

“But just to put things into context: less than a handful of countries have so far begun implementing the citizens' rights part of the WA. Some don't intend to begin until January 2021 while others still haven't set a date. So even with a start date of 1 October France will still be one of the earliest to begin implementation, and we will have nine months to make our applications.

“There is no reason why even 200,000 people – which we believe is the upper end guesstimate of the British population figure in France, should not be able to apply within a 9 month period.

“The other thing to note is that three months has been taken off the application time, NOT the time available for processing. There is no deadline within which préfectures must process applications – the date of 30 June 2021 is the (sic) period during which you must apply, NOT the period during which applications must be decided. We will be deemed to have the right of residence until our applications are processed – whenever that is, and we will have a certificate of application which will prove this.” 

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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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