‘Remainer’ Brits in EU can find their proxy voter with new Facebook group

Britons in the EU struggling to find a proxy voter in the constituency where they were last registered are being encouraged to use a new Facebook group. As long as they are against Brexit.

'Remainer' Brits in EU can find their proxy voter with new Facebook group
Photo: AFP
British voters in the EU, at least those not disenfranchised by the 15-year rule, have been encouraged to register for a proxy vote due to the unreliability of postal votes in the UK.
Both in the 2016 referendum and the 2017 there were scores of reported cases of postal votes getting lost.
Now many local authorities are recommending to overseas voters that they seek a proxy vote. A proxy vote is when the voter nominates someone to attend the polling station and vote on their behalf, but it must be the polling station relevant to the last UK address they were registered to vote at.
In response to this concern a group of Remain activists have set up a proxy vote matching service on Facebook which works a bit like a dating site. 
People requiring someone to be their proxy use the form on the groups page to register where the vote needs to be cast.
At the same time thousands of like minded Remain voters are registering to be proxies. These voters have to provide a reference so they can be vetted. The team behind the group use Geo mapping of postcodes to find the nearest match. Once the person is vetted an introduction is made and the pair “friend” each other to see if they can agree to work together. Should they fail then another match is sought. 
The group which is less than three weeks old already has close to 3,000 people participating and will have reached its 300th match soon.
Nigel Grey, the groups founder said, “During the European Elections, two friends asked me to be their proxy, I was amazed at how easy the process was. When I heard of the anger amongst the expat community, that they were once again going to be disenfranchised the solution seemed obvious. I however never imagined it would take off as quickly as it has”.
To join the group, people are asked to visit the page and click the sign up button. After that they just need to sit back and wait for a match to be emailed to them. They also join the group and  can sit and watch the matches come through.

Grey said: “One Expat described watching the posts as like watching the National Lottery hoping that this time it was their number that were going to come up.”
Expats who are not on facebook, who still want someone to be a proxy are asked to use [email protected] or email [email protected] to find out more. 
Note that voters in search of proxies are also being encouraged to contact the political party for whom they want to vote for in the constituency they are registered.



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Brits in France: Could the UK-EU deal lead to a relaxation of the 90-day rule?

Could a calmer relationship between the EU and the UK lead to better deals for Brits in France, such as a relaxation of the 90-day rule for second-home owners? The Local asked former British ambassador to France Peter Ricketts for his opinion.

Brits in France: Could the UK-EU deal lead to a relaxation of the 90-day rule?

One of the most common questions asked by Brits who own second-homes in France is whether there is any likelihood of a relaxation on the 90-day rule.

The EU-wide rule – which was always the case for visitors from other non-EU countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia – began to apply to Brits in France when the Brexit transition period ended in 2021.

Since then, Brits who want to spend time in France without living here must either limit their visits to 90 days in every 180 or get a visa.

In recent weeks the relationship between the UK and EU has improved with the agreement of the Windsor Framework to deal with post-Brexit problems in Northern Ireland, while the Franco-British relationship also entered calmer waters with a successful visit from UK prime minister Rishi Sunak on March 10th.

OPINION Macron and Sunak show that UK and France can be good neighbours

So could this eventually lead to good news for Brits in France?

The Local asked Lord Ricketts, who served as British Ambassador in Paris between 2012 and 2016 and now sits in the House of Lords, for his views in an interview organised by the Anglo American Press Association.

He said: “At the summit between Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron, one of the things announced was a project to make it easier for school trips to take place between France and the UK.

“It seems from the post-summit declaration that the countries will be working towards reinstating something like the collective travel document for school trips – so that you list all the kids’ names on one document.

“This would solve the problem of some French children in a class not having a passport, and if you get classes with non-EU nationals in them it would mean they wouldn’t need to get separate visas.

“I think the reason the two leaders announced this was simply because the school trip sector has been devastated by Brexit.”

New post-Brexit rules mean that each child in a French class needs a passport to visit the UK – since ID cards are accepted for travel around the EU and could previously be used to enter the UK, around one third of French people don’t have a passport.

Schools in France, especially those in northern France who used to do day-trips, have told media that taking groups to the UK is simply too complicated under the new rules.

But could this agreement but the first step towards relaxing other rules?

Lord Ricketts told us: “I think school trips was chosen because it is a sector that was hit particularly hard by Brexit, but also because it’s something that only really affects France and the UK.

“The market is not entirely, but very largely between the UK and France – coach parties going back and forth – so that’s an area in which France can do a deal without getting across other EU countries.

“I think the French are walking a bit of a tightrope because they are equally aware that in some areas what they do will set a precedent for other EU countries and they are being careful not to make concessions to the UK, effectively, in areas that could then involve other EU countries having to do the same thing.

“For example we know that there has been a lot of problems for British musicians who want to tour Europe and now find they need all sorts of extra paperwork – in that case a UK-France deal perhaps wouldn’t be particularly helpful because most people will want to tour other European countries as well.”

The 90-day rule is an EU-wide rule that affects Brits living in all EU countries, as well as many other EU nationals.

Therefore a deal for Brits in France could end up potentially setting a precedent for – for example – Americans in Sweden.

Lord Ricketts told us: “I think the Macron-Sunak summit is the start, yes, the beginning of a bit of an easing up.

“But it’s the start of the UK and France trying to find limited areas where they can make improvements that will aid people’s lives, without setting a precedent for the rest of the EU.”

For the moment at least, the 90-day rule in France will continue to apply – you can find full details of how it works HERE, a calculator to help you plan your stays HERE and – for those who want to stay longer – a visa guide HERE.