RECAP: Brits in Europe vent anger after May postpones Brexit vote

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has formally told the UK Parliament that the vote has been postponed because there is not enough support for the current backstop solution to avoid a hard border in Ireland. She has said she will go back to the EU to improve on the deal, especially with regards to the backstop. Rights groups in Europe have expressed anger that the vote was postponed.

RECAP: Brits in Europe vent anger after May postpones Brexit vote
British PM Theresa May has postponed the UK Parliament's vote on the draft Brexit deal because of MPs' “concerns” about the backstop, which could threaten “a hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

“The deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” said May, justifying why the vote will be delayed. “We will not seek to divide the house at this time.” The issue of the backstop is the one that has caused the largest division, says May, and prompted the decision to postpone the vote. 

  • May says she will consult again with EU leaders on the backstop
  • PM says a second referendum risks “dividing the country again”
  • Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn calls for the PM to “make way” if she cannot get a new consensus out of Brussels and the EU27
  • PM Theresa May refuses to commit to a new date for the vote, although it will have to be in the next 42 days – before January 21st, 2019. 
  • May says discussions with EU leaders reassured her that they are open to some renegotiations. The EU Commission has said that the current deal is final and non-negotiable. 
  • British in Europe lament being left “in limbo” for even longer about the future status of British citizens in Europe
  • EU Council President Donald Tusk says the deal, including the backstop, will not be renegotiated. 

19:11 EU Council says it will not renegotiate backstop

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the EU27 is “not willing to renegotiate, including on the backstop” but “but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification. As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.

18:57 First media reactions from the EU to May's vote postponement

“May pulls the emergency brakes” – headline in Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Brexit, May's government in chaos” –  Italian daily Repubblica leads with that headline in its coverage

“May confirms her intention to renegotiate the deal with the EU” – Spain's El Mundo

18:50 Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reiterates support for People's Vote or revocation of Article 50

18:46 More from British in Europe

“Parliament also needs to make its mind up and decide quickly if it's going to go for a People's Vote or revoke Article 50 unilaterally. It's not just EU negotiators whose patience is wearing thing. EU 27 governments are already looking at their no deal contingency plans and the window to make any of these things happen is closing rapidly,” British in Europe told The Local. 

18:41 Opposition minor parties want May out

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party, have said they would support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he calls for a vote of no-confidence.

18:40 “If the PM can change her mind, so can the public” – MP Caroline Lucas

18:35 Postponement is equivalent to deal rejection, says Dutch analyst

A key Brexit analyst with Dutch think tank Clingendael, Rem Korteweg, says the vote postponement is equivalent to the deal being voted down.

18:30 Vote postponement hits EU markets

Markets in Europe are reacting badly to May's announcement of the vote being postponed. The Borsa in Milan, owned by the London Stock Exchange, is down 1.77%, according to Italian daily Repubblica.  Stock markets in Paris and Frankfurt have also taken a hit today. 

18:26 May in confident mood, despite postponing the vote

“I believe from discussions with my EU colleagues that they do want a deal,” says PM. The former EU Commissioner Romano Prodi made the same point in an interview with the Guardian recently in which he expressed the view that the EU Commission would be willing to renegotiate to get a deal. 

18:23 A vote before Christmas? 

Most interventions from MPs are now pushing for a new date before Christmas, but PM May is not giving in to specifying a new date for an MPs vote on Brexit. Reactions to May's announcement to the UK Parliament that the vote will be postponed are ongoing. 

18:21 Further reassurances from France for Brits 

“Just before Theresa May spoke in the Commons, Nathalie Loiseau (ED: France's Europe minister) was speaking in the Assemblée nationale plenary debate on the projet de loi. She stated very strongly that British residents in France would be 'as welcome tomorrow as they are today' and that we shouldn't be the 'hostages of Brexit'. So some reassurance for Brits in France on a difficult afternoon,” RIFT'S Kalba Meadows told The Local in a written comment. 

READ ALSO: 'Brits in France are victims of Brexit' – French senator vows to fight for UK citizens 

18:18 Will a new declaration from the EU/UK be ready in time for Thursday's EU Council meeting?´

18:14 Representative of Brits in France calls postponement “dangerous” 

“900 days in limbo and here we are watching the can being kicked down the road … Unbelievable, dangerous, and to what end? At worst there should be, as the speaker has strongly suggested, a motion to debate whether the vote should be delayed or not, instead of this unilateral declaration that doesn't serve anything or anyone. But it's obvious that the House isn't going to resolve this message and the time must now have come to put the question back to the people in a further vote – including of course a vote for the 5 million British in Europe and EU citizens in the UK!” Kalba Meadows, chair of Remain in France Together (RIFT), a group representing Brits in France, told The Local. 

18:11 No new date until May talks to EU leaders again

“We need to enter into discussions with the European Union. Until we have done that, it is not possible to give a date,” PM May says in response to a question requesting when the new date will be. 

18:09 Frankfurt wants the WA, not a “disorderly Brexit” 

Before today's vote, voices in Frankfurt expressed the hope that Parliament would accept the Withdrawal Agreement. 

“Frankfurt Main Finance would welcome the adoption of the agreement by the British Parliament. For above all, a “yes” would be a definite “no” to an unregulated Brexit.  Approval of the agreement and a regulated withdrawal would mean more certainty for markets and for the banks, which could now finally make reliable plans. We have waited a long time for this. Even if still hold the opinion that the withdrawal from the EU is neither good for Europe nor for Germany nor the UK,” Hubertus Väth, managing director of the financial centre initiative Frankfurt Main Finance, said in a statement on December 10th. 

18:06 The big question is: when will the vote in the UK Parliament now be held?

18:04 House of Cards Commons language

There has been some very angry comments directed towards the PM in Parliament – she has been called a “coward,” among other things, for postponing the vote.

18:00 “EU leaders will not give TM more than very minor changes to her deal” – head of Brussels think tank

May says she can get concessions out of the EU, but key observers in Brussels aren't convinced. This from Charles Grant, director of think tank The Centre for European Reform. 

17:55 Boris Johnson needs a rest from Brexit?

Everybody is fully engaged in the debate in the UK Parliament. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson – one of the key politicians who started this whole quagmire – is yawning his way through it. 

17:52 Do you think Brits in Europe should be allowed to vote in any second referendum? If so, Best for Britain has started a petition to that end. 

A lot of people are calling for what is being labelled a People's Vote, a second referendum on Brexit now the terms of the future relationship with the EU are clear(er). British in Europe spokeswoman Laura Shields say Brits in the EU should be given the chance to vote in any such plebiscite. 

17:48 Notes on voting

Should the first referendum result be sacrosanct or is there space for a second vote? The debate ensues.

17:42 British in Europe reiterates need for ring-fencing of rights

“The PM needs to get on with it and allow the vote to happen.  Britons living in Europe need certainty and we've now been in limbo for 900 days.  But, if, as expected, she loses, we need her and the EU 27 to move to ring-fence the existing – if imperfect – withdrawal agreement straight away, so that real people's lives don't get forgotten in the chaos that will inevitably ensue,” Laura Shields, spokeswoman for British in Europe, told The Local. 

17:38 PM believes the EU is willing to renegotiate

“Nothing is off the table,” says PM May. The main thing is to seek reassurances from EU leaders that “the backstop will not be indefinite.” She says her discussions with EU leaders reassured her that she will still be able to have discussions about the deal and make changes. This is contrary to what the EU Commission has been repeating in recent days – that the deal on the table is final and non-negotiable. 

17:34 EU Council schedule makes no mention of Brexit talks

 The EU Council summit schedule, according to Austria's current presidency of the Council, for the end of this week makes no mention of renegotiating anything in the Brexit deal. Are they also surprised? 

17:31 “We entered as one United Kingdom and will be leaving as one United Kingdom,” says May in response to a question in a raucous House of Commons. The Speaker has made several interventions calling for calm. 

17:26 The European Council is scheduled to meet on December 13th and 14th – Thursday and Friday this week, providing an opportunity for the PM to meet her EU counterparts directly. Meanwhile, May has been talking to EU leaders on the phone. 

17:23 Nicola Sturgeon presses for new date

The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has noted that the content of the PM's speech conspicuous for its absence of a new date for the vote. Theresa May has postponed the vote but has refused to commit to a new date. Parliament will have to be given a vote in the next 42 days – before January 21st. 

17:21 Concern from EU citizens

EU citizens in the EU are expressing concerns about the devaluation of the pound, the lowest the pound has sunk in 18 months. 

In other news today, the ECJ has ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 and remain a member of the EU, should it choose to. 

READ ALSO: UK can cancel Brexit before March 29th without EU's consent, ECJ rules

17:20 Theresa May says a second referendum would lead to a third referendum to decide the result. “The people voted, we should deliver on it,” says May. 

17:13 British in Europe, the grassroots campaign for the rights of British citizens in Europe, says the “delay is adding to the stress that we are feeling” – the 1.2 million to 3.6 million British citizens in Europe. 

“The elements do not offer sufficient number of colleagues the reassurances they need,” May said.

17:10 Guy Verhofstadt, of the EU Parliament (and the former Belgian  PM), is not impressed with the delay.

17:04 This has turned into a robust debate. Kenneth Clarke and Ian Duncan Smith, both Conservatives in May's party, are grilling her on whether she thinks she can get the EU to “reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.”  

17:02 The PM says the latest a vote could be held will be January 21st next year, which we already knew. But she refuses to commit to a new date for a vote. 

17:00 MPs need to know when the vote will be, says one MP, calling the PM a coward for cancelling. 
16:58 A deal similar to the “Norway and Canada” deal would risk “a period with a backstop” says May. 
16:56 The Speaker has called for MPs to have a say on when the vote should take place. 

16:49 Corbyn says PM “must make way” if “she cannot renegotiate a deal.” 

16:48 Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, reacts to May's speech. 

He asks if the PM is seeking merely “reassurances” or “changes” to the deal? Is she willing to drop “further red lines to make progress,” Corbyn asks. 

16:44 PM'S SPEECH ON POSTPONEMENT OF VOTE: the main quotes

The PM says she “has listened and heard concerns about the backstop” and will “do her best” to seek further reassurances. The Speaker has had to tell raucous MPs not to drown out the PM's speech. The House of Commons resembles a pub full of angry crowds more than a political debating forum today. 

16:43 Remaining part of the Single Market and customs Union would require free movement and substantial financial contribution to the EU budget, adds May, saying such measures would not respect the “outcome of the referendum.” 

16:42 A second referendum risks “dividing the country again,” says May. 

16:41 “Does this house want to deliver Brexit?” May asks, to widespread laughter. “If the answer is yes,” adds May, “We have to ask if we are willing to make a compromise.” Some of the toughest aspects, such as the backstop, are “inescapable facts” of the negotiations, says May. 

16:40 The Speaker has had to interrupt heckling during the PM's speech. 

16:39 “These elements do not offer sufficient number of colleagues the reassurances they need,” on how to avoid the backstop, says May. She adds that she will travel to meet her counterparts across the EU to discuss how to avoid the backstop. 

16:38 May is talking about the people who live on the Northern Irish/Ireland border. “They do not want a return to the hard border. If this house cares about preserving this union, we must” listen to those who live along the border, says May. 

16:36 “The deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” says May, justifying why the vote will be delayed. “We will not seek to divide the house at this time.” The issue of the backstop is the issue that has caused the largest division, says May. 

16:33 “We've now had three days of debate on the withdrawal agreement,” begin PM May. 

16:30 Theresa May is scheduled to make a statement to the UK Parliament at 3.30pm UK time in which she is expected to formally announce the postponement of tomorrow's vote on the draft Brexit deal. 

15:00 The UK parliament was due to vote on May's deal on Tuesday but May has decided to put the decision on hold, according to British media reports.

The move is being viewed as an admission that parliament was likely to reject the deal.

The British PM is set to give a statement to the House of Commons at 3.30pm local time. 

Downing Street has not yet confirmed the delay but the BBC and other media said they had multiple sources saying the vote would not go ahead on Tuesday as planned. 

The pound tumbled to its lowest level since June 2017 amid market fears of the UK tumbling out of the EU without a deal. 

In a separate development on Monday, a European Court of Justice ruling said the UK did not need the EU's permission if it wanted to unilaterally cancel its Brexit plans before March 29th. 

There is speculation that the British Prime Minister will return to Brussels in the hope of getting a better deal, particularly around the Northern Ireland backstop. However Brussels and EU leaders have repeatedly insisted that the deal is not up for re-negotiation.

Member comments

  1. May, a rremainer by instinct, clearly works for Brussels. She needs a break from UK office work. Perhaps she should take this opportunity to go on one of her famous long walks somewhere exotic, and remain there.

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How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.