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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

 

For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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