Mixed messages: “confusing” Brexit and ‘GREAT’ Britain

British nationals expressed their anxiety and frustration at a Helsinki town hall meeting, as the UK's Supreme Court ruled Boris Johnson has broken the law.

File picture of a GREAT Britain pen being handed out at a British Embassy town hall meeting in Helsinki, 24th September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) says the situation in Britain “is getting more confusing now.”

He made the comment to journalists in parliament after the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful.

The ruling came amid continued uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the European Union, known as Brexit, which is supposed to happen on 31st October.

Members of the Finnish government have been using stronger language recently to talk about Brexit.

Although Finland has the rotating six-month Presidency of the European Council, the lead on Brexit issues is being taken by EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart.

However, last week Rinne said the UK should hurry up and produce proposals in writing for how to handle the thorny issues of the Irish border. He gave Boris Johnson a 12-day deadline but later backtracked and said this was not an official deadline.

And Europe Minister Tytti Tuppurainen (SDP) visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week described Britain’s Brexit strategy as “a rather bleak situation.”

Brits in Finland are anxious about the uncertainty

The latest machinations in the UK come as British citizens expressed their frustration and anxiety over Brexit.

At a town hall meeting at a Helsinki church on Monday evening, around 40 British nationals listened to Ambassador Tom Dodd give a round-up of recent Brexit events, and describe it as “a concerning thing.”

“The primary policy of the the Johnson government is that we will need to leave the EU on 31st October” said Dodd, adding that the Johnson government is “a very different government than the May government.”

“I can’t tell you what happens next” he conceded, in the basement of a church where cups of tea, and free pens with “GREAT Britain” emblazoned on them were available for people who attended.

Brexit preparedness leaflet available at British Embassy town hall meeting in Helsinki, 23rd September 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Concerns raise, but few answers available 

Given the chance to ask questions of the ambassador and his staff, as well representatives from Migri and Kela, some of the British nationals asked about travel insurance; health care; going to Estonian for business; the status of their UK pensions and whether they would continue being paid into Finnish bank accounts; and if there could be a return to armed conflict in Northern Ireland if no resolution could be found to the border issues.

“It’s the uncertainty that gets a lot of us, that policy seems to change on a whim depending on who is in power” said one woman who attended.

“It’s confusing and stressful” she said “we need some consistency.”

Ambassador Tom Dodd agreed that yes “that’s the reality of it”, that policies could change if there was a general election in the UK and the government changed in the coming weeks or months.

He said that all the comments “will be fed back into the system in the UK”.

News Now Finland was forbidden by embassy staff from recording any of the proceedings at the open town hall meeting, in contravention of two UK Acts of Parliament and the most recent best practice guidance from the relevant ministry in London.