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BREXIT

Brexit expected to be postponed again at crunch meeting of EU leaders

European leaders were expected to postpone Brexit once again on Wednesday, when Prime Minister Theresa May comes to another last-ditch summit still without a ratified divorce deal.

Brexit expected to be postponed again at crunch meeting of EU leaders
Theresa May visited Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May toured Paris and Berlin on Tuesday to plead for an extension to the deadline for Brexit, which looked increasingly likely to be approved by EU leaders at a crunch meeting in Brussels.

May has asked for a second extension to the deadline for Britain's exit from the European Union from April 12th to June 30th, which is set to be discussed by her EU partners on Wednesday.

READ ALSO French government's decree for no-deal Brexit: What it means for you


Theresa May also visited Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

After flying to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, May visited French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris who is seen as a hardliner in the negotiations and a key voice at the EU negotiating table.

Having raised doubts about whether an extension would be granted last week, meaning that Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal, an aide to the French president underlined on Tuesday that France was open to solutions.

“We've never been closed to the idea of finding an alternative solution to 'no deal' within certain limits and not at any price,” the aide said on condition of anonymity.

Discussions in Brussels are set to focus on conditions such as length – the French aide said a 12-month extension “seems too long” – and arrangements to limit Britain's influence within the EU during this time.

“There would be a transition period for the United Kingdom as an intermediary member, which is present and applying the rules, but not taking part in decision making,” the aide said.

“There would need to be clear commitments and then a mechanism for monitoring them,” they added.

EU members are keen to ensure Britain does not have a say on issues such as the next head of the European Commission, which will be decided shortly, or the next five-year budget for the EU.

May is hoping the extra time, if granted by EU leaders, will enable her to finally get a divorce deal through parliament.

British MPs have rejected a deal May negotiated with the EU three times, but the PM is now in talks with the opposition Labour party to try break the deadlock.

These discussions are moving slowly, and EU negotiator Michel Barnier said May must explain in Brussels what another postponement would achieve.

“The length of the extension must be linked to the purpose – what it's for – and that depends on what Mrs May will say to European leaders tomorrow,” he told reporters after a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.

A “no deal” – in which Britain crashes out of the EU – is still a possibility, but expectations of an extension helped lift the value of the pound on financial markets on Tuesday. 

“There will be a real discussion. Things have not been written in advance,” the French aide said of the leaders' summit in Brussels, adding that a “no deal” could not be ruled out.

The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that Britain risks a serious shock if it leaves the EU without an agreement.

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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