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

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Alex Macbeth - [email protected]
RECAP: 'We've taken a step further into uncertainty on our rights': UK nationals in EU react to May's defeat
Activists from rights group British in Europe on a march in 2018. Photo: British in Europe.

The UK's lawmakers have again rejected the Withdrawal Agreement. Votes on leaving with a no-deal, and then possibly on an extension to Article 50, will follow in the next two days. Live reactions from across Europe to another historic defeat.


Main info

  • MPs in Westminster reject "improved" Brexit deal by 149 votes (20:23)
  • Attorney General says 'legal risk remains' that UK could be locked into backstop
  • MPs due to vote on no-deal and Article 50 extension in coming days
  • European business leaders continue to express concerns about the no-deal scenario (18:08, 20:55, 21:00, 21:35)
  • "Let's wait and see," says Germany's Chancellor Merkel
  • German car lobby: "UK political actors need to be aware of the implications of their actions" (18:08)
  • Time to move to Malta before March 29th and cheat a no-deal? (18:20)
  • New Financial report says banks have moved 800 billion pounds in assets to the EU (18:53)
  • Vote on leaving with no deal will go ahead tomorrow March 13th
  • If the UK parliament rules out a no-deal on Wednesday March 13th, there will be another vote on securing an extension to Article 50 on March 14th
  • Michel Barnier: "Our 'no-deal' preparations are now more important than ever before" (20:46)
  • "The Gordian Brexit knot remains unresolved": German business leader (20:55)
  • "We do not deserve to be collateral damage": British in Europe (21:44)
  • Swedish economist: "This domestic politics mess is unparalleled" (21:35)
  • "We have given all possible assurances": French Europe minister Loiseau (22:10
  • "Let's protect Europe": Spanish PM Sanchez (22:01)
  • "More than ever we need the European Council to ring fence our rights": Rights activist (22:09)

British MPs have again rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's legal interpretation of the added assurances given by the EU to avoid the Irish backstop did not stop many MPs from rejecting May's negotiated deal with the EU. The reactions to the latest setback to leave the European Union with a framework for future cooperation poured in from the EU.

That's all from us for now, we'll be back with much more this week as the Brexit juggernaut stumbles on. For now, we leave you with a clip from the classic British TV series Yes Minister to try and make sense of it all.

READ ALSO: Eight TV shows that help explain Brexit Britain to your Italian friends

22:09 "More than ever we need the European Council to ring fence our rights": Rights activist

"Tonight we've taken a step even further into uncertainty on our rights. Everyone needs to remember that a vote tomorrow against a no deal doesn't actually stop a no deal exit - only an approved withdrawal agreement or revocation of Article 50 can do that," Kalba Meadows, coordinator of rights advocacy group Remain in France Together, (RIFT) told The Local.

"So more than ever we need the European Council to ring fence our rights - the risks are very high. And an extension doesn't remove those risks - the same choices between deal, no deal and revocation still exist, whenever a new Article 50 date is. The 5 million Brits in the EU and EU citizens in the UK have spent nearly 3 years in limbo, and we're suffering. Only ring-fencing can give us the security we need right now," adds Meadows. 

22:06 The view from France: "We have given all possible assurances": Europe minister Loiseau

"Tonight's vote in the Commons is bad news. The EU has given all possible assurances in addition to the withdrawal agreement. We have come to the end of the withdrawal negotiations because we have to protect the interests of the Europeans," tweeted the French Minister for Europe Natalie Loiseau. 

22:01 "We regret the decision...let's protect Europe": Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez

"We regret the decision of the British Parliament despite the EU's effort to achieve the best agreement. The European project must move forward to guarantee freedom, stability and prosperity. We need pro-European governments. Let's protect Europe so that Europe protects us," tweeted Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez in response to the vote.

21:44 "We do not deserve to be collateral damage": British in Europe

Rights advocacy group British in Europe reiterated their call for the rights of the 5 million or so EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU to be ring-fenced. 

21:35 The view from Sweden: "This domestic politics mess is unparalleled"

The chief economist at Swedish banking giant SEB, Robert Bergqvist, had harsh words about a majority of UK MPs refusing to approve the deal: "Brexit hangover again. Big loss for PM May in tonight’s parliamentary vote. Unfortunately a growing economic problem for the EU and the world. This domestic politics mess is unparalleled. Historic evening. Not easy for the EU to have the Brits as their negotiation counterpart.”

21:19 Anti-Brexit activist in Spain: "We're heading for No Brexit!"

Other activists fighting for citizens' rights interpreted May's defeat as a step towards cancelling Brexit completely.

"Get the Cava out! We're heading for No Brexit!" tweeted Sue Wilson, a British activist based in Spain and founder of 'Bremain in Spain'. 

21:13 Rights advocacy group British in Germany calls on the German government to support ring-fencing of rights in light of the latest defeat of the WA

For the 1.2 million or so UK nationals in the EU, the Uk parliament's rejection of the deal means their futures could be defined by domestic legislation in their host countries. British in Germany called on German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas to secure their rights.

"Dear @HeikoMaas, the (UK's) lower house continues to reject the withdrawal agreement and we are one step closer to a "no deal" Brexit," tweeted British in Germany, calling on the German government to support the ring-fencing of the rights of 5 million UK nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the UK. 

21:07 The Alan Partridge solution to Brexit

21:00 "Uncertainty still remains": Frankfurt Main Finance

“Frankfurt Main Finance regrets the UK Parliament’s recent rejection of the UK and the EU’s agreement for a regulated Brexit. This means that uncertainty still remains," says Hubertus Väth, managing director of the financial promotion agency Frankfurt Main Finance. 

20:55 "The Gordian Brexit knot remains unresolved": German business leader

"The decision of the British House of Commons is a bitter disappointment from an economic point of view. The danger of unregulated withdrawal from the EU and the associated economic and legal uncertainty continues to hover over the economy. In addition to significant new Brexit bureaucracy, the demolition of supply chains and a breakdown of "just-in-time" productions in the UK are threatening," Eric Schweitzer, president of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement. 

In addition, more than 10 million customs declarations and several billion euros in customs duties would be due annually for German companies. The companies still have no planning certainty in the UK business. Therefore, companies should prepare now at the latest on the basis of the DIHK Brexit checklist. Unfortunately, the Gordian Brexit knot remains unresolved," added Schweitzer. 

20:46 Barnier: "Our 'no-deal' preparations are now more important than ever before"

The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our “no-deal” preparations are now more important than ever before," tweeted the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. 

20:42 The numbers again on the vote that saw May's deal massively rejected for a second time

Full house: Theresa May speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal, in the House of Commons in London on March 12, 2019. Photo: AFP / PRU.  

20:27: Vote on no-deal and extension to go ahead in the next two days

There will be a vote tomorrow on whether MPs wish to leave the European Union without a deal. "This house declines to remove the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement on march 29th." Leaving on March 29th remains the default unless the EU and the UK ratify a deal, says Theresa May. 

If parliament votes not to leave without a deal, there will be another vote on Thursday March 14th. "The EU will want to know what we wish to do with that extension." May has floated the idea of a second referendum, revoking article 50 or striking a new deal as reasons for an extension. ´

20:23 Deal rejected again by 149 votes

Theresa May, sounding like she has swallowed the paper on which the deal is printed, says she "regrets the decision taken by the house tonight." She is struggling to speak. 

Yes 242

No 391

2017: MPs in 'voting no queue' suggests the deal will be rejected

It doesn't look good for May's deal, if this is anything to go by. 

20:02 MPs have now cleared the lobby and are lining up to vote.

We will bring you the results soon, as well as reactions from across Europe. Stay with us. If MPs screaming over each other hasn't convince you how epic this is, try watching proceedings soundtracked by Carmina Burana.


20:01 The view from Spain: tax deal for Gibraltar, no-deal trade fears in Murcia and Jo Johnson's confidence in democracy

Spain and Britain signed Monday a fiscal treaty on Gibraltar as Brexit nears to fight tax fraud and money laundering via the British overseas territory.

Hailed as "massively significant" by Gibraltar's leader, it was signed separately by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and David Lidington, Prime Minister Theresa May's effective deputy.

It must now be approved by the Spanish cabinet and ratified by the parliaments of both countries.

READ ALSO: Spain and Britain sign Gibraltar tax deal ahead of Brexit

Fruit and vegetable producers and exporters in Murcia told The Local that €580 million in exports to the UK are threatened by a no-deal, as a single day's delay at customs would be disastrous. 

READ ALSO: Rotting fruit and veg? Fearful Spanish growers prepare for no-deal Brexit

Former UK minister Jo Johnson, brother of Boris, has given an interview to Spanish daily El Pais.

"We need to have more confidence in ourselves as a democracy. If you do not check the state of public opinion in a formal way, you have surrendered. We are no longer a democracy, we are something else. In any case, it is not about forcing citizens to a new referendum. The point should be reached where the country sees this solution as the natural way to solve this mess. The Brexit has been defined from the beginning as a puzzle that does not have a good solution. And I believe that the citizenship must reach this conclusion by itself, it can not be imposed by Parliament,"  Jo Johnson told El Pais. 

Spain has also published guidelines for the more than 300,000 UK nationals living there should a no-deal become reality on March 29th. 

READ ALSO: Spain to pass new law to protect rights of Britons in case of no-deal Brexit

19:48 Historic (yet second) vote on Brexit deal coming soon!

Stay with us, there will be a vote (eventually). You can follow the discussions in the House of Commons live here (audio only or audio and video). MPs have finally pitched up. The House of Commons was practically empty two hours ago. 

19:34 View from Italy: "We don't want to be prisoners of Brexit" – Italian ambassador to London

Italian daily Repubblica has launched a section dedicated to the issues of the 700,000 Italian citizens in the UK. Ambassador Raffaele Trombetta gave an interview to the daily to launch the page.

"Let us know if there are situations to report, not only from the British government but also from difficulties at work, difficulty in registering your status, discrimination to obtain a house or any type, even non-institutional – in personal and work relationships. We are here to defend your rights," Ambassador Trombetta told Repubblica. 

The Local Italy has more details on how to navigate a no-deal Brexit if you are a Brit living in Italy. 

READ ALSO: The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy

And some information on how to swap your UK license for an Italian one.

READ ALSO: How to swap your British driving licence for an Italian one

19:19 "The only legal basis for a transition is the WA": EU negotiator Barnier

"Listening to debate in the House of Commons: there seems to be a dangerous illusion that the UK can benefit from a transition in the absence of the WA," tweets the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

He has a point, it feels like everybody is automatically banking on an extension to Article 50 and by default, a transition period. If a deal isn't agreed tonight, a discussion and vote on an extension is schedule for Thursday march 14th. 

18:53 275 firms have moved, or are planning to move, assets or staff from the UK to the EU: new report

A report by the City of London financial think tank New Financial estimates that 275 firms are moving some of their business to the EU. Banks have moved GBP 800 billion (approximately €929 billion ) in assets. 

"Nearly 250 of them are setting up new hubs for their EU business, and over 210 have set up new entities or applied for new licences," states New Financial's report

"Dublin has emerged as the clear winner in terms of attracting business from the UK, with 100 firms choosing the Irish capital as a post-Brexit location. This represents 30% of all the moves that we identified, well ahead of Luxembourg with 60 firms, Paris with 41, Frankfurt on 40, and Amsterdam on 32. We expect these numbers to increase significantly in the near future," adds the report. 

18:40 Bewilderment in Germany: "When will they wake up?"

"The MPs are grilling #May; they scoff and blame. I wonder when will they wake up themselves, find out that they themselves have a responsibility as MPs, assess the situation correctly - and then act that way ???" tweeted ArD Eu correspondent Markus Preiß. 

18:31 The view from Sweden: Cutting through Sweden's Brexit red tape as a UK national

If you are a Brit living in Sweden, here is a list of local websites that will help you navigate any future Brexit bureaucracy. 

READ ALSO: Confused about Brexit? Here are 8 essential websites for Brits in Sweden

Brits who live in Copenhagen but commute to Sweden will be protected in the event of a no-deal, says the British embassy.

"In the case of no deal, provided that you were working in Copenhagen at the time of whatever exit date, then you are fine to keep on in that existing employment," Dr Jonas Bruun, from the British embassy in Copenhagen, told UK citizens at a town hall meeting in Malmö on Monday evening, attended by The Local.

READ ALSO: British Öresund commuters protected from no-deal Brexit: UK embassy

18:20 Last chance to cheat a no-deal Brexit and move to the EU as UK national?

Malta may just be offering those in the UK who want to move to the EU before March 29th a last chance saloon.

In response to a question about whether UK nationals who move to Malta before March 29th can apply for a 10-year residency permit – which Malta is offering UK nationals in the event of a no-deal – a spokeswoman for the Maltese prime minister's secretariat said UK nationals who "move with a purpose will be able to." 

"The answer to your question is yes. UK nationals who would be residing in Malta before the withdrawal date will be eligible," Sarah-Louise Galea, head of international media at the prime minister’s secretariat, told The Local by email. 

"In this scenario, the resident has to prove that he moved to Malta with an intention to reside here before 29 March for a period longer than three months. Therefore, an application from a UK resident to benefit from this measure will have to be accompanied by documentation that proves this (an employment contract, document confirming residence arrangements, etc)," added Galea. 

More details on who is offering the most generous package of rights to UK nationals in the event of a no-deal can be found in the article below.

READ ALSO: No-deal Brexit: Which EU member state is being the most generous to Britons?

18:11 Two thirds of UK nationals in Europe who took part in a The Local poll don't want the deal approved

The Local ran a straw poll on Twitter, asking readers if they hope May's updated Brexit deal gets the green light on Tuesday. And the results were pretty emphatic.

Despite the fact a deal would at least give Britons in France some guarantees about their future, most wanted it to be rejected.

On Twitter two-thirds of voters so far are saying no, they don't want the deal to cross the line, with over 20% saying that they have stopped caring about Brexit and just over 10% saying that they actually do want it to pass. 

READ ALSO: So do the British in France want Theresa May's Brexit deal to pass?

18:08 "Without orderly and workable solutions for commercial transport, jobs in the automotive industry, especially on the British side, are at stake"

"UK political actors need to be aware of the implications of their actions. All participants should act in a prudent manner and work to prevent a hard Brexit. To reject the withdrawal agreement without there being a concrete alternative for another viable option is politically negligent," writes the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), which represents groups like BMW and Daimler, wrote in a statement. 

"Against this background, the postponement of the withdrawal date can make sense, provided that substantial progress can be achieved and a hard Brexit can be avoided. The consequences of a no-deal scenario would be fatal. A tough Brexit would have serious consequences for citizens and businesses in the UK and Europe. The companies on both sides of the English Channel are very closely linked. Great Britain is the most important buyer of German automotive products. The automotive supply chains would be directly affected. Massive impairments in logistics and high customs costs would be the result. Without orderly and workable solutions for commercial transport, jobs in the automotive industry, especially on the British side, are at stake," adds the German car lobby. 

17:58 View from Germany: "May's elegant sham"

Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung started the day's coverage with the headline 'May's elegant sham'. The daily argues that PM May is claiming this is the last chance, when in fact there is an EU summit on March 21st and March 22nd. 

"....even if the time pressure is immense, the "eleventh hour", the last possible time for an agreement, has not yet been reached. It is true that votes this Tuesday the lower house on the withdrawal contract. But it is true, even if it sounds cynical: there are just over two weeks left until the deadline set, and there is still an EU summit ahead. The resolute opponents of the present contract and the backstop they contain could therefore continue to play poker," wrote the daily in a commentary piece (DE). 

"We want to get along well and we want an orderly exit by Britain, and now it's the task of the British parliament to reach decisions, and we'll be following closely what happens today, tomorrow and the day after in Britain," said Germany's Chancellor Merkel at a joint press conference with Belgian PM Charles Michel.

READ ALSO: 'Let's wait and see': Merkel to watch UK closely after latest Brexit offer

17:41 "The fate of millions of British citizens living in Europe could well be determined in tonight’s vote"

Rights group British in Europe, which is pushing for the rights of at least 1.2 million UK nationals in the EU to be ring-fenced, is not hopeful a breakthrough will be achieved tonight. 

"The Conservative government have been guilty of kicking the can down the road – well they have now finally run out of road. Tonight’s the night. The fate of millions of British citizens living in Europe could well be determined in tonight’s vote. The whole issue has been a shambles, caused by the Conservative party's own ideological in-fighting," Julian Stubbs, coordinator of British in Sweden, part of the British in Europe coalition of country groups, told The Local Sweden.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May gesturing as she speaks at the start of the debate on the second meaningful vote on the government's Brexit deal, in the House of Commons in London on March 12, 2019. Photo: AFP. 

One solution would be if both the UK and the EU actively pursued the goals in the Costa Amendment, to ring-fence citizens' rights in a separate deal, if no deal on trade and regulation can be agreed. One of British in Europe's legal experts says "it is legally possible."

READ ALSO: 'Securing rights of Britons in Europe is legally possible, they just need to try'

17:21 "There is no alternative": Dutch PM Rutte

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is part of the chorus of EU leaders who have stressed that this is the final offer on the table. Although we have heard that before. 

17:08 "We owe it to history": Juncker

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hopes "the set of further legal assurances" will help push the deal over the line. In a closing caveat two a two-page letter to the EU Council, Juncker wrote that he hoped the deal can be done before the European parliamentary elections (May 23rd-May26th). Is a short extension at hand?

Most analysts and observers expect Theresa May's deal to be rejected by parliament again, meaning the spectre of a no-deal scenario on March 29th, the current date when the Uk leaves the EU, still very much a distinct possibility – barring an extension to Article 50. 



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