I cannot express my anger fully, without resorting to Anglo-Saxonisms, so I will try to keep a civil tongue. Civil being very apposite.
On Sunday morning March 15, I will be sitting in my local boulangerie, enjoying a coffee and a pain aux raisins with one eye on the paper, while the other checks out the queue for local friends entering the Salle du Temps Libre to cast their Municipal votes.
I’ve used my vote ever since I was able, because it was instilled in me as an absolute right for which so many people died, never mind a civil duty. I have lived in France and voted in municipal elections for 15 years, but will not have the right to do so in 2020. As a painful addition, this will be the first time in near on 60 years it will be the closest thing to an open election in our village.
Why are we, settled citizens, not being allowed to vote? The only answer I can elicit is that it is enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement, but not why. I am a local resident and pay all my taxes in France – impots, foncieres, habitation. I am committed to my local village, I have no property in the UK, and I contribute to my local community and the local economy in a variety of practical and empathetic ways. My life is affected by the policies of the elus and their decisions for the future direction for my village, as equal to, or greater than, the musings at the Elysee. My right to vote should have nothing to do with the British passport in my desk drawer, or being a former member of the EU. Nothing changes in the Transition period, except something.
I have a carte de sejour – signifying at least 5 years of permanent residence – and even registered on the transient “no deal” panic French website last summer. So I’ve done everything asked of me. I do though draw the line at being required to acquire French nationality. I already have two and I’m now too long in the tooth to suck up a third. In any case, no one’s convinced me of its necessity and unless the Withdrawal Agreement has made even more significant changes, the nationality hoop is only a requirement for presidential elections.
So why has the withdrawal of rights been enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement? Since citizens’ rights in the Agreement is designed to be a UK/EU mirror image of national decisions, which country initiated it and why? Municipal elections have nothing to do with nationality, but everything to do with settled residency, community connectivity and commitment. That trumps passports or EU membership. I sincerely hope the new residency requirements will be a pathway to the reinstatement of voting rights.
I might as well say I also have an issue with the expat voting rights in UK, something on which my partner and I constructively disagree. My belief is that if you live in and are fully committed to one country where you pay all your taxes with no significant material or financial connection elsewhere, why should you have the right to influence the political outcome there? The fanciful stance of many expats on UK voting is because your family lives there. So does that give your family the right to vote where you live? Or if you have a serious bank account in Luxembourg or Switzerland, should you have a right to vote there as well? There must be a limit to the number of horses you can ride in the same race. I say Devil take the hindmost to those who want to have two cakes and eat them both. It’s backfired though. I reckon expat folk were so concentrated on retaining their UK vote, they never saw their real and genuine influence slipping away. Ironically, I note the current UK government has finally cottoned on to the notion that most retired expats are Daily Mail readers and thus votes to be had, come the next Apocalypse.
I had been quite sanguine about giving Brexit a swerve thinking that I could ride out the nonsense going on in Westminster, dodging any practical effects on my bucolic Brexile life in this tiny outpost. Ha! Naive or what?
My anger surges not only because I am unable to take part in crucial local decision making, likely to have a direct impact on me and my life, but as much because I can’t determine a cogent, lucid reason the removal of my name from the local register. But in the end we have been touched by the collective English mental breakdown known as Brexit, the consequences of which, whatever the value from micro to macro, are now inescapable. Heigh ho.