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BREXIT

Brexit road-tripper: ‘It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose’

Brit Andy Pardy quit his job to undertake an epic odyssey across Europe in order to write ‘Stop Brexit’ with the resulting GPS route. Having recently concluded his more than 35,000-kilometre journey across 27 European nations, The Local caught up again with ‘The rogue consultant’ and his ode to freedom of movement.

Brexit road-tripper: 'It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose'
Andy Pardy arrives at Trebarwith Strand in Cornwall after the first 1,522 kilometres of his epic journey. Photo: Andy Pardy

When we last spoke to Andy Pardy, he was in Greece and about to continue driving north, a route that would eventually spell the word ‘Brexit’ when displayed on a map with GPS coordinates. 

“For the letter ‘X’ I drove from Mt Olympus to Berlin, then onto the outskirts of Warsaw and back down into the Croatian mountains,” Pardy, now back in the UK, told The Local. The ‘X’ alone required a 3,036-kilometre drive. 

Pardy had already driven the route that would spell the word ‘Stop’ through the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. 

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Editor's note: Obviously the EU's freedom of movement is about a lot more than cross-border travel, which for Britons might soon mean more paperwork. Make sure to sign up for our Europe & You newsletter for a weekly digest of what's at stake as Britain gets closer to the exit. 

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The curious story of why this British management consultant decided to throw in his job in the UK and undertake a last European tour, armed with nothing but a Volkswagen van, a GPS tracker and a passion for Europe, has captivated the minds of media worldwide. 

“After the Brexit vote I felt powerless. I haven't been able to participate or assist and I just wanted to do something,” Pardy told The Local in September this year.

So Pardy decided to traverse the continent he has known since he was a child (he grew up in Germany) for what he labelled a ‘last European tour’ to highlight the privilege that is freedom of movement. 

The man with a van, who was joined by his girlfriend Katy for the latter part of the journey, saw mountain ranges in Scandinavia, Slovakia, Slovenia, France, Spain and Croatia, “so it was nice to see Mt. Blanc, Europe’s highest peak,” says Pardy. Katy was subjected to equivalent beauty. Her three-day birthday trip took in Lake Bled in Slovenia, Lake Iseo in Italy and Chamonix at the feet of Mt Blanc.

Yet the highlights were so many, says Pardy. Romania was “a hidden gem”; mountain ranges in Slovenia and Croatia revealed landscapes Pardy “had never imagined”; Scandinavia was full of charm too. He even managed to stop in Munich for Oktoberfest.

Pardy is the captain of the story although his van may well be the unsung hero. “It never broke down and never didn’t start,” says Pardy, even though the vehicle covered more than 900 kilometres on rough roads on tough days. 

Pardy’s journey took him through most of Europe’s mountain ranges. “I feel like I know Europe better,” says Pardy, who has criss-crossed 26-EU nations in the last three months, with some understatement. “I thought I knew Europe. Seeing some of the farthest-flung corners has shown me what Europe has to offer. Even though we don’t know to what extent freedom of movement will be curtailed, it is very clear what we stand to lose,” adds Pardy, whose journey has filled more than nine pages of Google with media clips, including this Arte documentary.

His journey may appear inherently political but Pardy says more than anything it was personal. “It wasn’t to stir division,” says Pardy, who has received hundreds, if not thousands of messages of support along his route. Despite sleeping in a tin van and living on a diet of tin cans, Pardy says every corner of Europe was worth it. 

Would he be willing to do it again if he’d made a typo? “I would do it all again tomorrow,” says Pardy, adding the caveat that he’d like to top up on fresh fruit and a few good nights of sleep before ever trying such an odyssey again. 

And the main lesson learnt? “The adventure has highlighted what is at stake,” says Pardy. 

You can learn more about Andy’s journey on his Instagram account

 

After 27 countries, 35,000 km and 45 stress-free EU border crossings, my Last European Tour is finally complete ???? • I have created a piece of #GPSart that covers 18,231.7km and spells two words; STOP BREXIT. The full route and gps records can be found attached (or at LocaToWeb.com – Search ‘The Rogue Consultant’) • Europe has exceeded all expectations. The support and kindness of all those met along the way, as well as the 1000s of messages received online has been mind-blowing. Thank you all ? • The right to explore as well as live and work abroad, without tiresome red tape, is an immense privilege. As it stands, the ability to freely access and roam our fellow EU member states makes us incredibly fortunate. For me, this adventure has highlighted what is at stake. • I’ve got a huge backlog of photos and videos to process and complete over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for blog updates! I’m also in the process of calculating and offsetting my CO2 emissions. • The final list of countries (in order of first entry) is as follows: UK ➡️ Republic of Ireland ➡️ France ➡️ Belgium ➡️ Netherlands ➡️ Germany ➡️ Denmark ➡️ Sweden ➡️ Norway (non-EU) ➡️ Finland ➡️ Estonia ➡️ Latvia ➡️ Lithuania ➡️ Poland ➡️ Slovakia ➡️ Hungary ➡️ Romania ➡️ Bulgaria ➡️ Greece ➡️ Austria ➡️ Czech Republic ➡️ Slovenia ➡️ Croatia ➡️ Italy ➡️ Luxembourg ➡️ Spain ➡️ Portugal #StopBrexit ??❤️?

A post shared by The Rogue Consultant (@therogueconsultant) on Oct 31, 2018 at 1:19am PDT

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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