No-deal Brexit still a risk says Europe Minister

Businesses must get ready in case of a no-deal, says Europe Minister Amélie de Montchalin

There is still a risk of no-deal because the deadline of January 31 is non-negotiable and the Brexit deal will not be reopened again, says France’s Europe Minister.

However Amélie de Montchalin told journalists she hoped the coming British general election would enable the UK better to line-up the wishes of the public, government and Parliament so as to get out of an “impasse”.

The deal could then be ratified so as to have an “orderly” Brexit at the end of January, but if not then businesses must be ready for the possibility of no-deal, she said.

In the meantime she said “it’s handy that we have a little extra time”, so more businesses can organise, as she acknowledged many had yet to do so.

The government is asking any French firms working with the UK to take a short online questionnaire: Autodiagnostic Brexit (Connexion has pointed out to the ministry that the text today appears to be full of mixed-up ‘franglais’).

“It’s basically not too complicated,” Ms de Montchalin told journalists from Europe 1, CNews and Les Echos. “They have to ask for a number, an accreditation, to be able to pass through an intelligent border, in the case of there being new checks.”

Ms de Montchalin stressed that the extension to January 31 had not just been “time for time’s sake” and France had opposed some other European countries which had been happy to offer another six months or more unconditionally.

“Since April we’ve been presented as being the tough guys of the gang. People say the French are always inflexible and hard, but that’s not really how it is,” she said.

“The president has just tried to make sure that we have clarity. Because Brexit represents above all a great deal of uncertainty. There are millions of families and firms that can’t see clearly what’s going on.”

France had accepted there could nonetheless be an extension, either if the UK needed a little more time to ratify the deal, or for elections to be held.

It is now “time for the British to take decisions,” Ms de Montchalin said: do they actually want to leave the EU or not? And if so do they want to leave with the negotiated deal?

With the general election approaching on December 12, and postal ballots likely to get delayed in Christmas post and with threats of postal strikes, campaigners have urged Britons in France who have a vote to go for the proxy vote option instead (see this link for the British in Europe coalition's elections advice). 

This is also recommended as the best option by the UK's Electoral Commission.

Anyone can be your proxy but they must be a registered UK voter and able to physically vote in your old constituency (a 'postal proxy' option also exists but does not avoid problems with ballots getting delayed in the post).

If you have no one that can help, one tried-and-tested method is to contact the local branch of the political party you wish to vote for and ask them to find you a proxy, telling them that you are concerned that a postal vote could be wasted.

Connexion would recommend that anyone who is not already registered as an overseas voter – and who is not ineligible due to the '15-year rule' – do so as soon as possible at gov.uk/register-to-vote to avoid missing out.

Do not forget also to fill in and send the proxy vote request form, which you may in most cases return by email to the electoral services at your old UK council.

If they do not acknowledge it, double check that it has been received, by email or telephone.

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