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BREXIT

Britons in Europe hold breath as MPs set to vote on Brexit deal

Britons across Europe faced a crucial day on Tuesday with Theresa May's Brexit deal set for a crunch vote in parliament. If, as expected, it fails to get the green light, then campaigners are demanding action to protect citizens' rights.

Britons in Europe hold breath as MPs set to vote on Brexit deal
Photo AFP

On Tuesday the House of Commons, the UK's lower house, will vote on what is probably the most important parliamentary vote in Britain in decades.

MPs will decide whether to back Prime Minister Theresa May's much criticized Brexit Withdrawal Agreement or vote it down and provoke parliamentary chaos.

No group of people will be more glued to TV screens than the 1.2 million Brits living throughout Europe, whose futures and indeed peace of mind and quality of life hinge on the result.

If the Brexit deal is passed by MPs in Westminster it will at least allow most Britons in Europe to continue as they were, albeit without the freedom of onward movement that will impact many livelihoods.

But if Theresa May's deal is rejected then it leaves Britons in Europe living in yet more anxious limbo and facing the prospect of all the upheaval that would come as a result of the UK crashing out of Europe without a deal.

'934 days of limbo'

Kalba Meadows from the British in Europe (BiE) and Remain in France Together (RIFT) campaign groups told The Local the situation for Britons living in the EU is nothing short of “shameful”.

“While the eyes of the UK and EU are on politicians and the vote, we, the ordinary Brits living in the EU, are on day 934 of our limbo and still have no idea what our status will be in just 74 days time.

“We should have been removed from the equation months ago through a separate citizens' rights agreement covering us and the EU citizens living in the UK. “

The fact that two and a half years after the shock referendum in June 2016 the futures of British citizens in Europe and of EU nationals in the UK still hang in the balance shows they are just an afterthought to those in charge of negotiations, said Meadows.

The impact of living for so long with so little certainty over what the future holds has had a devastating impact on the mental and physical health of many, particularly retirees, who have seen their pensions decimated by the falling pound.

“The human cost of what's happening now is huge: not just the phenomenal stress of living with this ongoing uncertainty – which we're seeing every single day in our members – but the sense that as human beings we don't really matter enough to either the UK or EU. Frankly, it's shameful,” said Meadows.

READ ALSO: 'Better than no deal': Do Brits in Europe hope Theresa May's deal succeeds?

The desire for the limbo to end means many Brits in Europe are hoping Theresa May's bill is backed by MPs.

“If there is going to be a Brexit then for us UK citizens living in the EU May's deal is a good one,” said Robert Neil, a British resident of Crete, Greece. “It has lots of certainty and guarantees, unlike a no deal. A no deal could be a disaster.”

But many Britons in Europe believe the deal should be rejected because it denies them the right to onward freedom of movement and leaves them “landlocked” in the country they are currently residing in.

Many are still holding out for a second referendum and would be prepared to go through a few more anxious weeks and months if it means the British people had the chance to vote again.

Paul Hearn, a Briton based in France said: “My hope is that Parliament will stop Brexit, soon after voting against the proposed deal, adding that “a People's Vote is the only fallback position.”

If, as expected, Theresa May loses her vote then British in Europe, an umbrella group for campaigners across Europe is demanding the Prime Minister takes action to secure the rights of British citizens in the EU and the three million EU nationals in Britain.

“If Theresa May loses the vote tonight, she should immediately commit to ring-fencing the existing rights of @The3Million and @BritishInEurope and call on the EU27 to do the same, in an international treaty. It would give people the security to go about their lives as before,” the group tweeted.

But given citizens have been treated as bargaining chips throughout the whole negotiation process it is unlikely that Theresa May will suddenly start acting in their interests.

The reality is that more limbo, more uncertainty, and more anxiety lies ahead.

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AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Data shows that more than a quarter of Austria's population has a 'migration background'. Which nationalities are most common?

IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Austria’s population is growing, which is necessary for economic growth and maintaining the social system that is such a vital part of the country.

However, the only reason the country keeps growing is because of immigration, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

Since 2015, the share of the population with a “migration background” has risen continuously from 21.4 percent to 25.4 percent, the institute stated. As Austria has about 8.8 million people, this means 2.24 million people have a migration background in the country.

For the survey, Statistik considered people with a “migration background” to be those whose parents were both born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth. Persons with one parent born in Austria do not have a “migration background” according to this definition.

And while German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people), much has changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

READ ALSO: Why has naturalisation in Austria doubled in 2022 – and who are the new citizens

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

Numbers of Ukrainians, Syrians, and Afghanis are soaring

The data shows that the most significant jump in the number of foreigners is from those countries with a recent history of conflicts.

For example, in 2015, there were 11,255 people with Syrian nationality living in Austria, and the number soared to 70,901 in April 2022, almost five times more people.

In early 2015, Austria had 16,779 Afghani residents, a number that jumped 170 percent to 45,394.

READ ALSO: Ukrainian refugees push Austria’s population past nine million

When it comes to Ukrainians, the phenomenon is more recent, and the numbers show that.

While in 2015, there were 8,582 people with Ukrainian nationality living in Austria, on January 1st 2022, that number went to 12,673. And just three months later, after the Russian invasion, it soared to 52,803.

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