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BREXIT

UK moves towards Brexit delay as MPs vote to rule out a no-deal exit

The House of Commons twice rejected a no-deal in different votes on Wednesday, but PM Theresa May warned that a no-deal exit remains the default legal option and gave MPs a final ultimatum to back her much-maligned deal or face a lengthy delay to Brexit.

UK moves towards Brexit delay as MPs vote to rule out a no-deal exit
Graphic: The Local.

The sinuous logic of the Brexit process continued to manifest itself in the UK parliament on March 13th as British MPs voted to reject leaving the EU without a deal by 43 MPs. The motion does not however guarantee that anybody can say goodbye to a no-deal.

“The legal default in UK and EU law remains that the UK will leave the EU without a deal unless something else is agreed. The onus on everybody in this house is to find out what that is,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in reaction to the defeat.

The options are the same, added PM May: vote for her deal, hold a second referendum (which would “damage the fragile trust between the British public and this house” or negotiate a new deal, which she acknowledges the EU is reluctant to do. She has lost her voice and again sounds like she swallowed all 500+ pages of her deal.

May signalled that she would put her deal – already defeated in two previous votes – before the House of Commons for a third time next week, in the hope that Conservative rebels and her DUP allies will finally get behind it given the threat of a lengthy delay to Brexit.

If MPs did back her deal then she would seek a short extension of Article 50 until June, May hinted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as other EU leaders have hinted that the EU could approve an extension. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, has said he would prefer that an extension end before the May 23rd European parliamentary elections. 

A debate and vote on whether the UK should now seek an extension will be held on Thursday March 14th. 

The motion set next Wednesday March 20th as a deadline to vote on the current deal. The final scheduled EU summit before the UK's currently-scheduled departure from the EU (March 29th) is on March 21st-22nd.

UK MPs may have rejected a no-deal exit, but European leaders and EU officials are upping their preparations for such a scenario. 

“We, the Spanish people, are ready for any scenario, with or without a deal,” Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez wrote in an editorial in the Madrid-based daily El Pais. 

In his sanguine editorial, PM Sanchez added: “It is impossible to understand Brexit without taking into account the conjunction of three factors. A nationalism that advocates the withdrawal from the exaltation of myths and false nostalgia, the advance of the extreme right and the simplification of democracy around the figure of the referendum as a tool from which to offer simple answers to complex problems. 

British in Italy, part of the British in Europe coalition, summed up the feeling among 1.2 million frustrated UK nationals living in Europe who fear losing key rights related to healthcare, residency, work, the right to remain and to move. 

“An unresolved Gordian Brexit knot”; “uncertainty still remains” – “this domestic politics mess is unparalleled”. To catch up on all the reactions from Europe tonight and from last night, have a browse through our live blogs from the last two days. 

READ ALSO: RECAP: UK parliament votes to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances

READ ALSO: RECAP: 'We've taken a step further into uncertainty on our rights': UK nationals in EU react to May's defeat

 

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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