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BREXIT

EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay

After hours of uncertainty, divisions and deliberation, the European Council agreed to extend Brexit Day until May 22nd, but only if the deal is approved by the UK parliament. If not then the Theresa May has until April 12th to come up with a new plan or take the UK out of Europe without a deal.

EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay
EU Commission President Juncker (L) and European Council President Tusk (R) speak during a press conference at the European Summit on March 21st 2019, in Brussels. Photo: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

There will be no Brexit for at least April 12th – just under three weeks. 

The EU unanimously agreed at the European Council summit in Brussels to approve a short extension to Article 50, albeit with distinct conditions.

Theresa May had requested an extension up until June 30th but EU leaders granted one until May 22nd if the framework for future cooperation, known as the Withdrawal Agreement or 'the deal', is approved by the House of Commons next week.

According to Reuters news agency Emmanuel Macron told fellow EU leaders that May only has a five percent chance of winning the vote next week, after hearing the prime minister's speech on Thursday.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council said Macron was being optimistic.

If British Prime Minister Theresa May cannot find consent for her deal among MPs, she will once again have to take her begging bowl to Brussels to seek a further extension and offer a clear plan to move forward by April 12th. 

“The European Council agrees to an extension until 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week. If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council,” reads a statement by the EU Council issued late on the night of Thursday March 21st.

Theresa May' now has to convince some of the 149 MPs who voted against her exit deal just 10 days ago to vote for the same deal. 

The brief respite means the UK will not crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29th as previously scheduled – although the specter of a no-deal scenario remains a distinct possibility given the UK parliament's inability to reach a compromise so far. 

“The European Council calls for work to be continued on preparedness and contingency at all levels for the consequences of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, taking into account all possible outcomes,” adds the EU Council's statement. 

The length of the extension was the subject of much discussion at the summit, with France and Belgium reportedly pushing for a May 7th Brexit Day, as supposed to May 22nd. The EU Council's decision to cut the period of extension requested by the UK government is designed to prevent the UK from having to hold EU parliamentary elections from May23rd to May 26th. 

French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that this was the last spin of the dice, warning that a no-deal scenario was the only alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement. “We have to be clear on Brexit, to ourselves, to our British friends and to our people. The Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated. If the UK votes negatively, we'll head towards a no-deal,” tweeted Macron. 

PM May will now attempt to get the same deal, which has been vehemently rejected so far by the UK lower house in two votes, approved by parliament next week. Rights activists representing the 1.2 million UK nationals in Europe and the 3.6 EU nationals in the UK are planning a March on Saturday in London. 

Meanwhile a petition to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit has reached nearly 2.5 million signatures in two days. 

READ ALSO: French president Macron warns of no-deal Brexit 'for sure' if British MPs reject May's deal

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BREXIT

‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK. 

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