RECAP: Brits in Europe vent anger after May postpones Brexit vote

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has formally told the UK Parliament that the vote has been postponed because there is not enough support for the current backstop solution to avoid a hard border in Ireland. She has said she will go back to the EU to improve on the deal, especially with regards to the backstop. Rights groups in Europe have expressed anger that the vote was postponed.

RECAP: Brits in Europe vent anger after May postpones Brexit vote
British PM Theresa May has postponed the UK Parliament's vote on the draft Brexit deal because of MPs' “concerns” about the backstop, which could threaten “a hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

“The deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” said May, justifying why the vote will be delayed. “We will not seek to divide the house at this time.” The issue of the backstop is the one that has caused the largest division, says May, and prompted the decision to postpone the vote. 

  • May says she will consult again with EU leaders on the backstop
  • PM says a second referendum risks “dividing the country again”
  • Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn calls for the PM to “make way” if she cannot get a new consensus out of Brussels and the EU27
  • PM Theresa May refuses to commit to a new date for the vote, although it will have to be in the next 42 days – before January 21st, 2019. 
  • May says discussions with EU leaders reassured her that they are open to some renegotiations. The EU Commission has said that the current deal is final and non-negotiable. 
  • British in Europe lament being left “in limbo” for even longer about the future status of British citizens in Europe
  • EU Council President Donald Tusk says the deal, including the backstop, will not be renegotiated. 

19:11 EU Council says it will not renegotiate backstop

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the EU27 is “not willing to renegotiate, including on the backstop” but “but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification. As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.

18:57 First media reactions from the EU to May's vote postponement

“May pulls the emergency brakes” – headline in Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Brexit, May's government in chaos” –  Italian daily Repubblica leads with that headline in its coverage

“May confirms her intention to renegotiate the deal with the EU” – Spain's El Mundo

18:50 Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reiterates support for People's Vote or revocation of Article 50

18:46 More from British in Europe

“Parliament also needs to make its mind up and decide quickly if it's going to go for a People's Vote or revoke Article 50 unilaterally. It's not just EU negotiators whose patience is wearing thing. EU 27 governments are already looking at their no deal contingency plans and the window to make any of these things happen is closing rapidly,” British in Europe told The Local. 

18:41 Opposition minor parties want May out

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party, have said they would support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he calls for a vote of no-confidence.

18:40 “If the PM can change her mind, so can the public” – MP Caroline Lucas

18:35 Postponement is equivalent to deal rejection, says Dutch analyst

A key Brexit analyst with Dutch think tank Clingendael, Rem Korteweg, says the vote postponement is equivalent to the deal being voted down.

18:30 Vote postponement hits EU markets

Markets in Europe are reacting badly to May's announcement of the vote being postponed. The Borsa in Milan, owned by the London Stock Exchange, is down 1.77%, according to Italian daily Repubblica.  Stock markets in Paris and Frankfurt have also taken a hit today. 

18:26 May in confident mood, despite postponing the vote

“I believe from discussions with my EU colleagues that they do want a deal,” says PM. The former EU Commissioner Romano Prodi made the same point in an interview with the Guardian recently in which he expressed the view that the EU Commission would be willing to renegotiate to get a deal. 

18:23 A vote before Christmas? 

Most interventions from MPs are now pushing for a new date before Christmas, but PM May is not giving in to specifying a new date for an MPs vote on Brexit. Reactions to May's announcement to the UK Parliament that the vote will be postponed are ongoing. 

18:21 Further reassurances from France for Brits 

“Just before Theresa May spoke in the Commons, Nathalie Loiseau (ED: France's Europe minister) was speaking in the Assemblée nationale plenary debate on the projet de loi. She stated very strongly that British residents in France would be 'as welcome tomorrow as they are today' and that we shouldn't be the 'hostages of Brexit'. So some reassurance for Brits in France on a difficult afternoon,” RIFT'S Kalba Meadows told The Local in a written comment. 

READ ALSO: 'Brits in France are victims of Brexit' – French senator vows to fight for UK citizens 

18:18 Will a new declaration from the EU/UK be ready in time for Thursday's EU Council meeting?´

18:14 Representative of Brits in France calls postponement “dangerous” 

“900 days in limbo and here we are watching the can being kicked down the road … Unbelievable, dangerous, and to what end? At worst there should be, as the speaker has strongly suggested, a motion to debate whether the vote should be delayed or not, instead of this unilateral declaration that doesn't serve anything or anyone. But it's obvious that the House isn't going to resolve this message and the time must now have come to put the question back to the people in a further vote – including of course a vote for the 5 million British in Europe and EU citizens in the UK!” Kalba Meadows, chair of Remain in France Together (RIFT), a group representing Brits in France, told The Local. 

18:11 No new date until May talks to EU leaders again

“We need to enter into discussions with the European Union. Until we have done that, it is not possible to give a date,” PM May says in response to a question requesting when the new date will be. 

18:09 Frankfurt wants the WA, not a “disorderly Brexit” 

Before today's vote, voices in Frankfurt expressed the hope that Parliament would accept the Withdrawal Agreement. 

“Frankfurt Main Finance would welcome the adoption of the agreement by the British Parliament. For above all, a “yes” would be a definite “no” to an unregulated Brexit.  Approval of the agreement and a regulated withdrawal would mean more certainty for markets and for the banks, which could now finally make reliable plans. We have waited a long time for this. Even if still hold the opinion that the withdrawal from the EU is neither good for Europe nor for Germany nor the UK,” Hubertus Väth, managing director of the financial centre initiative Frankfurt Main Finance, said in a statement on December 10th. 

18:06 The big question is: when will the vote in the UK Parliament now be held?

18:04 House of Cards Commons language

There has been some very angry comments directed towards the PM in Parliament – she has been called a “coward,” among other things, for postponing the vote.

18:00 “EU leaders will not give TM more than very minor changes to her deal” – head of Brussels think tank

May says she can get concessions out of the EU, but key observers in Brussels aren't convinced. This from Charles Grant, director of think tank The Centre for European Reform. 

17:55 Boris Johnson needs a rest from Brexit?

Everybody is fully engaged in the debate in the UK Parliament. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson – one of the key politicians who started this whole quagmire – is yawning his way through it. 

17:52 Do you think Brits in Europe should be allowed to vote in any second referendum? If so, Best for Britain has started a petition to that end. 

A lot of people are calling for what is being labelled a People's Vote, a second referendum on Brexit now the terms of the future relationship with the EU are clear(er). British in Europe spokeswoman Laura Shields say Brits in the EU should be given the chance to vote in any such plebiscite. 

17:48 Notes on voting

Should the first referendum result be sacrosanct or is there space for a second vote? The debate ensues.

17:42 British in Europe reiterates need for ring-fencing of rights

“The PM needs to get on with it and allow the vote to happen.  Britons living in Europe need certainty and we've now been in limbo for 900 days.  But, if, as expected, she loses, we need her and the EU 27 to move to ring-fence the existing – if imperfect – withdrawal agreement straight away, so that real people's lives don't get forgotten in the chaos that will inevitably ensue,” Laura Shields, spokeswoman for British in Europe, told The Local. 

17:38 PM believes the EU is willing to renegotiate

“Nothing is off the table,” says PM May. The main thing is to seek reassurances from EU leaders that “the backstop will not be indefinite.” She says her discussions with EU leaders reassured her that she will still be able to have discussions about the deal and make changes. This is contrary to what the EU Commission has been repeating in recent days – that the deal on the table is final and non-negotiable. 

17:34 EU Council schedule makes no mention of Brexit talks

 The EU Council summit schedule, according to Austria's current presidency of the Council, for the end of this week makes no mention of renegotiating anything in the Brexit deal. Are they also surprised? 

17:31 “We entered as one United Kingdom and will be leaving as one United Kingdom,” says May in response to a question in a raucous House of Commons. The Speaker has made several interventions calling for calm. 

17:26 The European Council is scheduled to meet on December 13th and 14th – Thursday and Friday this week, providing an opportunity for the PM to meet her EU counterparts directly. Meanwhile, May has been talking to EU leaders on the phone. 

17:23 Nicola Sturgeon presses for new date

The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has noted that the content of the PM's speech conspicuous for its absence of a new date for the vote. Theresa May has postponed the vote but has refused to commit to a new date. Parliament will have to be given a vote in the next 42 days – before January 21st. 

17:21 Concern from EU citizens

EU citizens in the EU are expressing concerns about the devaluation of the pound, the lowest the pound has sunk in 18 months. 

In other news today, the ECJ has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and remain a member of the EU, should it choose to. 

READ ALSO: UK can cancel Brexit before March 29th without EU's consent, ECJ rules

17:20 Theresa May says a second referendum would lead to a third referendum to decide the result. “The people voted, we should deliver on it,” says May. 

17:13 British in Europe, the grassroots campaign for the rights of British citizens in Europe, says the “delay is adding to the stress that we are feeling” – the 1.2 million to 3.6 million British citizens in Europe. 

“The elements do not offer sufficient number of colleagues the reassurances they need,” May said.

17:10 Guy Verhofstadt, of the EU Parliament (and the former Belgian  PM), is not impressed with the delay.

17:04 This has turned into a robust debate. Kenneth Clarke and Ian Duncan Smith, both Conservatives in May's party, are grilling her on whether she thinks she can get the EU to “reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.”  

17:02 The PM says the latest a vote could be held will be January 21st next year, which we already knew. But she refuses to commit to a new date for a vote. 

17:00 MPs need to know when the vote will be, says one MP, calling the PM a coward for cancelling. 
16:58 A deal similar to the “Norway and Canada” deal would risk “a period with a backstop” says May. 
16:56 The Speaker has called for MPs to have a say on when the vote should take place. 

16:49 Corbyn says PM “must make way” if “she cannot renegotiate a deal.” 

16:48 Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, reacts to May's speech. 

He asks if the PM is seeking merely “reassurances” or “changes” to the deal? Is she willing to drop “further red lines to make progress,” Corbyn asks. 

16:44 PM'S SPEECH ON POSTPONEMENT OF VOTE: the main quotes

The PM says she “has listened and heard concerns about the backstop” and will “do her best” to seek further reassurances. The Speaker has had to tell raucous MPs not to drown out the PM's speech. The House of Commons resembles a pub full of angry crowds more than a political debating forum today. 

16:43 Remaining part of the Single Market and customs Union would require free movement and substantial financial contribution to the EU budget, adds May, saying such measures would not respect the “outcome of the referendum.” 

16:42 A second referendum risks “dividing the country again,” says May. 

16:41 “Does this house want to deliver Brexit?” May asks, to widespread laughter. “If the answer is yes,” adds May, “We have to ask if we are willing to make a compromise.” Some of the toughest aspects, such as the backstop, are “inescapable facts” of the negotiations, says May. 

16:40 The Speaker has had to interrupt heckling during the PM's speech. 

16:39 “These elements do not offer sufficient number of colleagues the reassurances they need,” on how to avoid the backstop, says May. She adds that she will travel to meet her counterparts across the EU to discuss how to avoid the backstop. 

16:38 May is talking about the people who live on the Northern Irish/Ireland border. “They do not want a return to the hard border. If this house cares about preserving this union, we must” listen to those who live along the border, says May. 

16:36 “The deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” says May, justifying why the vote will be delayed. “We will not seek to divide the house at this time.” The issue of the backstop is the issue that has caused the largest division, says May. 

16:33 “We've now had three days of debate on the withdrawal agreement,” begin PM May. 

16:30 Theresa May is scheduled to make a statement to the UK Parliament at 3.30pm UK time in which she is expected to formally announce the postponement of tomorrow's vote on the draft Brexit deal. 

15:00 The UK parliament was due to vote on May's deal on Tuesday but May has decided to put the decision on hold, according to British media reports.

The move is being viewed as an admission that parliament was likely to reject the deal.

The British PM is set to give a statement to the House of Commons at 3.30pm local time. 

Downing Street has not yet confirmed the delay but the BBC and other media said they had multiple sources saying the vote would not go ahead on Tuesday as planned. 

The pound tumbled to its lowest level since June 2017 amid market fears of the UK tumbling out of the EU without a deal. 

In a separate development on Monday, a European Court of Justice ruling said the UK did not need the EU's permission if it wanted to unilaterally cancel its Brexit plans before March 29th. 

There is speculation that the British Prime Minister will return to Brussels in the hope of getting a better deal, particularly around the Northern Ireland backstop. However Brussels and EU leaders have repeatedly insisted that the deal is not up for re-negotiation.

Member comments

  1. May, a rremainer by instinct, clearly works for Brussels. She needs a break from UK office work. Perhaps she should take this opportunity to go on one of her famous long walks somewhere exotic, and remain there.

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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.