British long-stay expats in Spain increasingly angry over 15-year voting exclusion

Published:  7 Nov at 6 PM
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As yet another Brexit-induced British general election looms, some 60 per cent of UK expats in Europe are being denied the right to vote.

The issue is the rule that British citizens living overseas for over 15 years are excluded from voting in UK elections or referendums even although, as in this case, their rights can be totally denied should the vote go the wrong way for their present circumstances. Put bleakly, those who chose to emigrate after retirement and who’ve built their new lives according to their preferences and economic situations can now be forced to return to the country they rejected 15 years ago.

It’s estimated just under five million Britons are now living overseas, either in retirement or in work, with around 60 per cent now denied the human right to cast a vote in one of the most crucial general elections since WWII. Spain is home to many thousands affected by the cruel rule, with the result likely to destroy their chosen lives unless the Spanish government allows them an unconditional stay. Even should this happen, British expats now making regular visits to their extended families still in the UK may well be hamstrung by the cost and bureaucracy involved in a short-term return to the home country followed by re-entry into Spain.

Another issue causing major concern is that of free healthcare, due to end when the UK finally leaves the EU and likely to involve high-cost medical insurance unless a reciprocal agreement is reached between the UK and Spain. A Conservative victory is predicted to cause a push to leave the EU, whilst a majority vote for a left-leaning coalition may possibly result in a second referendum or a People’s Vote on Brexit itself, but Britons denied the vote due to the 15-year rule will still not be able to state their preference.

According to one popular English language media outlet, research shows a high number of expats living on the Costa del Sol feel the rule is discriminatory and unfair, adding they should also have been allowed to vote in the 2016 referendum. It’s not just Brit retirees whose lives may well be wrecked should Brexit succeed, as the hated rule also applies to UK citizens who’ve owned businesses in Spain for over 15 years and those who have a Spanish partner and family.
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