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BREXIT

Chances of Brexit being called off are at 30 percent, says EU chief

The chances of Brexit being cancelled and the UK staying in the EU are as high as 30 percent, said EU chief Donald Tusk on Friday. He believes Brexit has awoken a pro-EU movement in Britain.

Chances of Brexit being called off are at 30 percent, says EU chief
EU chief Donald Tusk. Photo: AFP

Tusk, the president of the European Council said the chances of Brexit being called off were rising due in the main to the fact that in his view the British public would reject leaving the EU in a second referendum.

The EU's most senior official believes that if Britain voted again today then the outcome of any IN/OUT referendum would be different to that of June 2016.

Tusk believes Remain would win the second vote because British voters had only really realised the impact of Brexit after the first referendum had taken place.

“A real debate about the consequences of Brexit wasn't had during the referendum campaign, but only after the vote. Today the result would probably look different. Paradoxically, Brexit awoke in Great Britain a pro-European movement,” Tusk told Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, in an interview shared with other European newspapers.

 

“The referendum was at the worst possible moment, it is the result of a wrong political calculation,” he added, in a reference to former PM David Cameron's decision to offer voters a referendum as part of his 2015 election manifesto.

“After the British referendum in 2016, I thought that if we recognise that the case is closed, it will be the end. Today the chance that Brexit will not happen is in my opinion 20 to 30 percent. That's a lot,” he said.

“From month to month, it is becoming increasingly clear that the UK's exit from the EU will look completely different than the Brexit that was promoted. I see no reason to capitulate,” Tusk said.

“Even if we repeat that the referendum is the expression of will by the nation and the will of the nation must be respected, yes, you have to respect it,” he said.

“But the 2016 referendum was not the first on the UK's membership of the EU. The first was in 1975 when the British, two years after entering the EEC, decided to remain in it.

“If the 2016 referendum was able to change the result of the 1975 referendum, why can it not be changed again? Nothing is irreversible until people believe it is.”

Talks between Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to find a deal that can be put to parliament appear to have stalled.

This week Corbyn, who has been reluctant to back a second referendum, said a re-run of the vote could act as a “healing process”.

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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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