Private members expat voting bill dropped after brief debate

Published:  4 Apr at 6 PM
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In yet another setback for British expats overseas desperate to vote in the June 23 Brexit referendum, a private members’ bill has been withdrawn due to governmental evasive tactics.

The private members’ bill, introduced by Labour MP for Christchurch Dorset Chris Chope, called for the removal of the 15-year expat voting rights exclusion rule and the provision of internet voting for Brit expats living overseas. Unsurprisingly, after a brief parliamentary debate, Mr Chope was forced to withdraw the bill.

According to Constitutional Reform Minister John Penrose, up to six million Britons living overseas should be able to vote in both British and EU elections. However, the majority are excluded due to the 15 year rule, and less than two million entered the electoral roll in order to exercise their voting rights. The Conservative Party’s election manifesto promised to scrap the 15-year time limit after which the right to vote is withdrawn, but has done nothing so far.

Penrose stated that, although there is government support for Chope’s bill, it’s felt that internet voting has a number of security issues yet to be solved. He assured members that parliamentary draftspersons are at present working on a bill to cancel the arbitrary time limit, adding that he felt the rule is meaningless.

The government, he explained, believes that some points in Chope’s private member bill have not been examined in full detail, adding that wider issues such as encouraging full electoral participation across all sectors of the UK citizenship also need to be considered as part of any new legislation.

After thanking Labour MPs for their backing, Chope agreed to withdraw the bill, provided that a government-sponsored bill forms part of the upcoming Queen’s Speech. Should this not happen, he said, I shall reintroduce the bill to Parliament in the hope that pressure on the government will result in a solution.

Meanwhile, concern over Brexit is rife in European expat havens, with many British pensioners fearing the loss of their homes and lifestyles without even a chance to state their positions by voting on Britain’s leaving the EU. The Association of British Expats in Italy is launching a legal challenge in the High Court, in the hope that the action will encourage the government to lift the time limit and allow all Brits living in EU member states to have a say in their future.
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