"Brexit", a contraction of the term "British Exit", refers to the UK's exit procedure from the European Union. As the process unfolds, the world closely follows its development and implications. But questions arise: When? How? What will the consequences be? Don’t panic, we’re here to explain.
To start, let's take a look at at some of the events, the twists and turns, and the difficulties of setting up such a procedure.
By the referendum of 23 June 2016 and with 51.9% of the votes, the United Kingdom officially chose to leave the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron, who wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the Union, resigned a few days later. Theresa May, the former Minister of the Interior, then replaced Cameron.
According to Article 50 TEU (Treaty of the European Union), which refers to the conditions for leaving a Member State, the State wishing to withdraw must notify its intention to the European Council. Then, negotiations are initiated between this state and the Union to set the terms of withdrawal. Following the approval from the European Parliament, the arrangements must be accepted by a qualified majority of the European Council. The state then has two years to complete the negotiations and reach an agreement.
On March 29th, 2017, the United Kingdom representative to the European Union presented the letter requesting the launch of Article 50 to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. Thus, the United Kingdom of the European Union has until March 29, 2019 to reach an agreement on its exit with the Union.
The official negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union begin on June 19th , 2017, in Brussels.
On December 8th, 2017, London and Brussels agreed on the main principles of the exit agreement, which is the payment of the United Kingdom’s commitments under the EU budget, the preservation of the rights of British citizens already residing in the other Member States and vice versa, and finally the non-re-establishment of a hard border between the two Irelands, in order to preserve the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended many years of bloody conflict. (Note: Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom while Ireland, to the south, is an independent state and part of the European Union). It is the question of Ireland that poses a problem from a practical point of view.
On January 29th, 2018, the European Union granted the United Kingdom a 21-month post-Brexit transition period from March 30th, 2019 to December 30th, 2020.
After long months of negotiation, London officially announced that an agreement had been reached on November 13th, 2018. Among other things, if no alternative were found before the end of the transition period (December 30th, 2020) the Kingdom United Kingdom would be provisionally maintained in a customs union with the Union, in order to avoid the reinstatement of a hard border between the two Irelands. This customs union would correspond to a single territory within which there would be no quota or customs duty for industrial and agricultural goods. Moreover, Northern Ireland would enjoy a special status, as it should be subject to certain rules of the single market, such as health standards for veterinary checks. This solution of last resort would only be put in place after December 2020; if it is implemented, its resolution will require a joint decision providing another commercial relationship.
In order to avoid the "no-deal" and a brutal exit of the European Union without agreement, the British Parliament must ratify this compromise. The vote was initially scheduled for December 11th but Theresa May preferred to postpone it until January 15th, despite opposition from a significant number of MPs.
On January 15th, 2019, the agreement was submitted to the vote of the British Parliament and was overwhelmingly rejected by 432 to 202 votes. The result is a motion of censure instituted by the Labor opposition party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May succeeded by a slim margin of 19 votes (306 votes for and 325 votes against).
The British government then gave itself until January 29th to find a plan B.
Let's look at the different possible outcomes:
- Back-out / change the agreement: this is out of the question according to the European negotiator, Michel Barnier because according to him "The border in Ireland, it is the border of our 27 countries, it is thus important to the integrity of the single market in question”, but if they succeed, the UK Parliament must vote again.
- British Parliament approves the exit agreement, then the European Parliament approves the exit agreement and so the UK leaves the EU with an agreement on March 29th, 2019.
o He's against the exit agreement, so the UK leaves the EU without agreement.
- Give up the agreement: the UK leaves the EU without agreement
- Delay Brexit?
- Cancel Brexit: the UK remains a member of the EU
- Organize a new referendum: 3 solutions can be submitted to voters:
o UK leaves EU without agreement
o The UK remains a member of the EU
o The agreement is approved, then the European Parliament approves it and the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019
- Quit via a motion of no confidence?
In any event, the negotiator reiterated to the European Economic and Social Committee that "there was no other possible treaty" than the 585-page document negotiated for 17 months.
However, a brutal exit without the agreement of the European Union is now possible, according to various European personalities such as the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker who said "The risk of a Brexit without agreement has increased" ... Similarly for Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, who said that "No one wants a Brexit No Deal. It is approaching, in any case the threat is stronger, it is clear.
And we must therefore prepare for the worst, so we will see that they would be the consequences and the solutions put in place in case of Brexit without agreement.
I. French expatriates settled in the United Kingdom
There are more than 3 million Europeans settled in the United Kingdom. There are about 300,000 French expats residing there now. According to an OpinionWay survey, 62% of you were planning to stay in the UK after Brexit.
On January 21st, the UK government launched a mobile app that you can look forward to; you will be able to apply for "permanent resident" status to continue working or receiving social benefits.
1. How to apply for permanent resident status
The procedure is simple: on the application, users are asked to take a photo with their phone their passport and their face to confirm their identity. They are then directed to a website where they will have to enter their address and agree to a verification of their tax situation (to confirm their address). Finally, they must declare their criminal record, because serious convictions can lead to the rejection of the request.
However, this application is not yet available on iPhones because, as explained in Le Monde, "It is the American firm that blocks this innovation, refusing to let iPhones scan passport chips, in the name of the protection of privacy" .
The cost of the request was initially 65 pounds, about 74 euros. However, Theresa May surprised everyone by announcing that it would now be free (the procedure was already free for those who already had permanent resident status). The Minister of the Interior has therefore promised that those who had already paid would be reimbursed.
Finally, only expatriates installed before March 29th, 2019 will benefit from this procedure, until December 31st, 2020. Paper applications will be open from March 30th.
2. What about spending money in the UK?
Another subject, you will have to pay attention to your expenses with regards to payments and withdrawals made in the United Kingdom. If the country leaves the Union, it is possible that European banks will charge fees on withdrawals of money and payments. Moreover, in a document summarizing the impact of Brexit without a full consensus, the UK Treasury has indicated, "the cost and time for payments and money transfers in euros could increase".
The same goes for phone calls to France, and soon calling your family could be much more expensive than before. It is possible that the prices charged by the operators could reach inflated levels. Since June 15, 2017, it has been possible to use your phone plan in any Member State in the same way as in your country of origin, without any additional cost. But in case of a hard Brexit, the UK will be considered a third party, so operators will be able to do what they want.
Finally, for you French students (and for all European students studying in Britain) it is possible that you will be required to pay university fees much larger than before, because you will then be considered foreign students.
II. British people settled in France or in an EU Member State
One of the main points of the rejected agreement was that, whether it is Europeans in the United Kingdom or the British on the continent (of which there are about 1.2 million people), they will be able to continue studying, working, collecting wages and bringing their families. In any case, we can assume that this crucial point will actually be enacted.
On our side of the Channel, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe unleashed the plan for a Brexit without agreement on January 17, because according to him "the hypothesis of exit of Brexit without agreement is less and less improbable". But we must find a solution for British nationals living in France; according to Nathalie Loiseau, Minister of European Affairs, "If we did nothing, they would be in an irregular situation at March 30".
The Enabling Act adopted in the final reading by the two Houses of Parliament will enable the necessary measures to be taken by way of ordinance, which should be five in number, the most important of which is the first, relating to the right of British citizens in La France. According to Edouard Philippe, "we must ensure that there is no interruption of rights and that the rights of our fellow citizens or our businesses are effectively protected."
In practice, British nationals can continue to reside in France without a residence permit for a year, the time that their situation is regularized after the loss of their status of citizen of the EU. But according to Edouard Philippe, "this solution would be chosen by France subject to reciprocity". In addition, France also ensures, as negotiated in the agreement, that their social rights are preserved (retirement, unemployment ...) on the condition that the United Kingdom does the same.
As in the previous part, to contact your relatives who stayed in the UK, it's a little different. These calls are not free but, since last June, capped at 19 cents per call and 6 cents per SMS ... So in the event that the United Kingdom would leave the Union without agreement, this limit would no longer be required. Operators, arm yourselves with patience and re-read the small print of your contracts.
Furthermore, if you live in France or in a Member State, you will have to pass your driving license in the country where you are installed, because the British license would not be valid anymore in the European territory.
In addition, like the procedure launched in the United Kingdom, you will probably have to obtain a visa to continue living in certain countries; for example, in Germany you will have 3 months to apply for temporary resident status.
Other countries, such as Belgium, have announced that British expatriates could stay, thanks to an agreement signed between Belgium and the United Kingdom.
However, no response has been provided concerning practical issues such as the education of UK students, who may be particularly affected in terms of mobility and may have difficulties in studying abroad without the Erasmus program.
Finally, concerning healthcare, the United Kingdom has issued approximately 27 million European health insurance cards, guaranteeing access to emergency care in the European Union. Unfortunately, they could be refused by some member states.
If you are a French expatriate residing in the United Kingdom and you want to return to France to see your family or conversely, you are British, you live in France and you want to spend a few days with yours, could you travel by plane? Well, after March 30th, it will become more complicated. The European Commission has announced that the companies will retain their authorization for a year after Brexit, but that British companies would no longer have the right to run businesses on European territory. We can assume from this that air traffic will become more complicated.
In addition, the UK government has recommended that citizens planning to travel to France renew their passports if they expire less than six months after their arrival date. Indeed, you could enter the Schengen area until the day before the validity date of the document; however, in the event of of hard Brexit, this will no longer be the case.
As for the land route, the border controls will be put back in place, so travelers will need to be patient and waiting in line. For the Eurostar, as the United Kingdom has never been part of the Schengen area, the procedures would remain the same.
In addition, depending on the arrangements that will be chosen between the European Union and the United Kingdom, a visa may be required to enter the United Kingdom after the transitional period. The same applies when a person wishes to come to work in the United Kingdom or a British person wishes to work in a Member State, the prior obtaining of a work permit could become a condition sine qua non.
Let us not forget that various possibilities are to be considered, and that the United Kingdom can also put in place bilateral agreements to facilitate Franco-British relations. Thus, it remains conceivable that French citizens would be exempt from needing visas or work permits.
In conclusion, even if the worst happens and the United Kingdom leaves the Union without an agreement, policies will be put in place to prevent citizens from losing their rights. Unfortunately, in that case, it is still certain that the lives of millions of people will be turned upside down.
Finally, as Donald Tusk said, "If an agreement is impossible, and nobody wants an exit without agreement, who will finally have the courage to say that it is the only positive solution? ".