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BREXIT

Britain and EU set out competing Brexit delay dates

Prime Minister Theresa May asked the European Union on Friday to delay Britain's departure until June 30 while Brussels suggested that it might be best to postpone the split for up to a year.

Britain and EU set out competing Brexit delay dates
European Council President Donald Tusk during a debate last month in Strasbourg. Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP
EU leaders also reacted sceptically, saying that there had to be a strong justification for any further delay. 
 
The competing visions of how to unwind Britain's 46-year EU membership will be hashed out again at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
 
Strong resistance is likely against May's plan, which would involve Britain planning for European elections on May 23 but then not actually holding them.
 
The current Brexit deadline of April 12 has already been pushed back once from March 29 because of the UK parliament's repeated failure to back the deal May signed with the other 27 EU leaders in December.
 
May's formal request to EU Council president Donald Tusk said Britain thinks the delay “should end on June 30 2019” — the same date she asked for and was refused at the last EU summit last month. 
 
“If the parties are able to ratify (the withdrawal agreement by) this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated earlier,” May wrote in a letter released by Downing Street.
 
A senior EU official said that Tusk's own idea for a “flexible” 12-month extension “will be presented to member states today [Friday, ed.]”.
 
But a source in French President Emmanuel Macron's office said it was “premature” to consider the request without “a clear plan” from May about what she intended to do with the extra time.
 
France's Europe Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said: “Another extension requires that the UK puts forward a plan with a clear and credible political backing.
 
“In the absence of such a plan we would have to acknowledge that the UK chose to leave the EU in a disorderly manner,” she said.
 
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said May still had “many questions” to clarify.
 
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte — seen as one of May's closer European allies — also said the letter “doesn't answer” important concerns.
 
'Political cover'
 
May said Britain would start preparing for European Parliament elections in case it is still a member of the bloc when they begin on May 23.   The idea is deeply unpopular with Britons who voted to quit the EU and chart their own future in a 2016 referendum whose arguments are still being waged to this day.
 
Political analysts in London said May probably knew that her new deadline will be rejected because EU leaders do not think she can get her deal through parliament any time soon. May is under intense pressure from the right wing of her Conservative Party to pull Britain out of the bloc as soon as possible — with or without a deal.
 
“I think that Theresa May is looking for political cover because she is asking for an extension she knows she can't get,” said King's College European politics professor Anand Menon. 
 
She wants Brussels to “force her to do something else so that at least she won't get accused of selling out.”
 
'Fight to save Brexit'
 
Britain and the other 27 EU nations must give unanimous backing to any deadline extension. Some EU leaders fear that Britain's participation in the European Parliament vote will help boost the standing of anti-EU parties due to their popularity among Brexit-backing Britons.
 
UK far-right leader Nigel Farage called on his supporters Friday to vote for his Brexit Party in the European election.
 
“The fightback to save Brexit has begun,” Farage tweeted.
 
Breakthrough unlikely
 
May's team is currently negotiating with leaders from the main opposition Labour Party in a bid to find a compromise that can pass parliament in the coming days. But the talks do not appear to be going well.
 
“We are disappointed that the government has not offered real change or compromise,” a Labour Party spokesperson told reporters. “We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in parliament and bring the country together.”
 
May's letter said the talks' failure would likely see the two parties jointly produce several options that would be put up for a series of parliamentary votes.
 
Labour is pushing May to accept a much closer post-Brexit alliance with the bloc that includes its participation in a customs union. May had previously dismissed the idea because it bars Britain from striking its own trade deals with global giants such as China and the United States.
 
By AFP's Dmitry Zaks
 

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BREXIT

‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK. 

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