Bill to give UK expats votes for life passes first reading

Published:  3 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, Citizenship, Euro, England
A private members’ bill aimed at giving all expats the right to vote in UK elections no matter how long they’ve been away has sailed through its first reading unopposed.

After many years of contesting the hated 15 year lockout of UK expats’ voting rights, a private members’ bill passed its first reading in Westminster unopposed and without debate. Its second reading is set for February 2018, and will hopefully have the effect of forcing the British government to finally act on its promise to give all expats votes for life.

Current law has resulted in Britons most affected by the result being excluded from voting in the Brexit referendum as well as in Theresa May’s snap election. The results of both polls could well have been very different had British citizens who’ve lived overseas for more than 15 years been allowed to have a say in their own futures. Since 2015, those affected by the hated rule have seen promise after promise made by the Tory government and conveniently forgotten soon afterwards.

Thanks to protest groups and sympathetic media outlets, the bill has remained on the back burner rather than being scrapped. The excuse given was that registering long-stay expat voters living overseas was complicated due the fact that voter registers are scrapped after 15 years. The process of verifying an expat’s right to vote would, until now, seem to have been too great a challenge for Britain’s civil service brains.

However, expats wanting to examine the content of the bill will have to wait, as private members bills are traditionally not printed out until just before their second reading, due on 23 February next year. To date, several high-profile legal challenges have been brought in Europe and the UK by committed opponents, although none have been successful. At present, there are no official statistics for the number of long-stay British expats living overseas who have been affected by the rule.
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