No progress on expatriate votes or free movement

Update on expat voting rights

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Over three months have passed since ‘Shindler’s Bill’ on expat voting rights received a second House of Commons reading and no progress is being made towards the hoped-for change in the law.

The Overseas Elector’s Bill 2017-19 was a private member’s bill, but the government backed it, saying it was an opportunity to implement its manifesto promise to end the 15-year voting limit.

However, it has not had a ‘money resolution’ – a formality authorising the possibility of spending public money on the bill’s aims, nor has a date been fixed for it to move to the next ‘committee stage’.

“Nothing seems to be moving at the moment,” said Christopher Chantrey of the British Community Committee of France. He noted it was among bills flagged up in a recent Commons debate when the shadow leader of the House called it an “important bill which has not yet received its money resolution”, despite the fact this was usually done “immediately after a second reading”.

The delay means it is likely that should there be a referendum on the Brexit deal with the same franchise as the first one long-term expats will be excluded again.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “When it gets to committee stage it is up to Parliament I’m afraid. I don’t believe it’s been held up, there’s just a large number of bills to be discussed and the Overseas Electors Bill was quite far down the list.”

French-resident campaigners from British in Europe (BiE) will be joining a march in London on June 23 asking for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final deal.

This comes as the House of Lords voted for an amendment to the EU With­drawal Bill that the UK should stay in the wider EEA after Brexit – a solution which would safeguard most expat rights apart from EU election voting and without the need for a carte de séjour.

There have been no significant advances in the Brexit negotiations as the October deadline for completing a draft withdrawal agreement approaches.

BiE continues to highlight remaining concerns, such as the lack of ‘onward’ free movement to live and work in other EU countries. Out of 1,121 Britons in France who took part in a BiE survey, half thought they would be personally affected by restrictions on their current free movement rights as EU citizens.

BiE has also surveyed experiences of applying for cartes de séjour and is passing on findings to the EU Commission and Council and the Interior Ministry.

One complication set to come in after Brexit which will affect second-home owners is the EU visa-waiver scheme Etias, which is now scheduled for 2021 (details in Brexit section). It will mean a €7 fee and an online application for permission to visit the Schengen Zone (including France).

Among other details, people will have to declare criminal offences in the past 10 years (or 20 for terrorism). Permission will last three years and will allow stays of up to three months at a time in the Schengen Zone in any 180-day period (the usual limit for non-EU visitors).

Validity is likely to be checked at the border by a passport scan. Britons living in France may need to show a carte de séjour at the border on returning from a holiday to prove exemption.

  • On June 11, parliament will debate a motion that a ‘no Brexit’ option must be included when UK MPs debate the deal
  • A decision is expected on June 19 after an appeal was made against the Amster­dam case which seeks a European Court of Justice ruling on whether Britons’ EU citizenship may remain after Brexit. The Article 50 Challenge, arguing Brexit was not triggered properly, will have a High Court hearing on June 12
  • The British Embassy has an outreach meeting on June 26 in Nîmes