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CHRISTMAS

Santa analysis: Claus and Europe feel Brexit pinch, as will UK’s Christmas

Will Santa still come to the UK if he faces tariffs and can’t move freely? And what about some of the goodies from the EU that Brits crave so much at Christmas?

Santa analysis: Claus and Europe feel Brexit pinch, as will UK's Christmas
Deposit Photos.

The Christmas spirit and festive relief will be much appreciated by those weighed under by the Brexit saga. But will Brexit in fact turn out to be the future grinch of British Christmases?

Santa could face logistics and supply chain issues in the UK if the country does eventually leave the EU with no deal. Santa and his reindeer could face long queues at Calais or find they don't have the right to enter British airspace.

Santa would then either have to set up a UK subsidiary or avoid delivering too many fresh cakes, treats or presents that could spoil.

EU gifts could suddenly face heavy tariffs, potentially preventing the red-cloaked, large and bearded Nordic man from delivering millions of presents across the British Isles.

The British government has also promised that Brexit will mean a tougher approach on immigration, although it’s unclear whether the UK would adopt the ‘Norway model’ and ban Swedish reindeer from entering the country. Santa might then not be coming to town.

Reindeer in Norway. File photo: AFP Photo/NORWEGIAN PUBLIC ROADS ADMINISTRATION/Kari Karstensen.

Turkey, champagne, port wine and sweet Italian cake are all linked to the spirit of Xmas – and to the EU.

Some British festive habits even crossed the Channel from Europe. In 1841, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, allegedly brought a Christmas tree from Germany to the UK, importing a tradition that has found its way into every British living room ever since. Martin Luther is apparently credited with having invented the Christmas tree.

It might have originally been an import from Europe, but higher costs for Polish and Danish trees to reach British shores meant UK-based growers were hailing Brexit as a victory for domestic-grown trees in 2017, according to a report in Horticulture Week.

British Christmas turkeys rely distinctly on EU labour. Some 90 percent of seasonal workers, who help breed and slaughter turkeys in the UK, are from Eastern Europe – mainly Poland, Romania and Hungary, according to a report in the Financial Times. 

READ ALSO: A big, fat Italian Christmas: how Italy does it bigger and better

“We wouldn’t be in business without migrant workers and we won’t be in business in the future without them,” MD of a turkey company Paul Kelly, also chairman of the British Turkey Federation, told British daily Metro. 

Polish workers are increasingly turning their back on the UK and instead seeking similar work in the Netherlands or Germany, states that report. 

Brits love a Christmas toast with champagne too, a fact confirmed by the United Kingdom’s position as the former leading consumer of the French sparkling wine in the world. 

Yet the head of the Union of Champagne Houses (UCH), which includes brands such as Moet & Chandon, said already at Christmas last year that the USA had dethroned the UK as the largest bubbly consuming nation. Brits are increasingly opting for cheaper alternatives.  And it isn’t just champagne that Brexit has in its sights. The price of a bottle of port wine, a Christmas favourite with mince pies, will rise to offset the extra costs Brexit entails.

READ ALSO: #SwedishChristmas: The festive Swedish songs just for adults

“We will have to gradually raise our prices in the coming years to cover losses,” Adrian Bridge, president of Fladgate Partnership – which owns leading port brands such as Taylor’s and Fonseca, told Forbes’ Portuguese-language outlet Forbes.pt, while discussing Brexit. Sales to the UK represent 30 percent of the company’s annual turnover, claims the Forbes report.

A slice of panettone cake is also popular in Britain. The United Kingdom is the third largest consumer of all Italian Christmas cake exports. Nearly 10 per cent of all panettone and pandoro cake exports from Italy go to the UK, according to Confartigianato, an Italian growers union which has warned that a no-deal Brexit could add substantial costs for its members who export heavily to the UK. 

Italian companies generated more than €43,2 million in sales in the UK during the festive period in 2016, accounting for 11.1 percent of all total exports in the sector, reported Confartigianato, a lobby group of Italian manufacturing firms.

Bonus viewing: BBC Newsnight's border-to-border (Muff to Dover) road trip across the UK while discussing Brexit tries to feel the pulse of the British public on Theresa May's Brexit deal before Christmas 2018.   

READ ALSO: The food and drink you need for an Italian Christmas feast

READ ALSO: The story behind France's 'little saints' of Christmas

READ ALSO: 12 weird and wonderful Christmas traditions celebrated across Spain

READ ALSO: Your essential guide for doing Christmas just like a German

 

 

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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