British expats to sue government over full right to vote

Published:  10 Mar at 6 PM
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The Association of British Expats in Italy has announced it will sue the UK government if the right to vote after living overseas for 15 years is not granted in time for the Brexit referendum.

During the run-up to last year’s General Election, the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledged to bring in a ‘votes for life’ rule for expats after giving up on the present 15-year exclusions rule. The UK government has since stated there is not enough time left to change the law before the referendum takes place on June 23.

Long-stay expats across the world, whether working or retired, are up in arms at their exclusion from one of the most crucial votes in recent UK history. Minister for Constitutional Reform John Penrose believes that as many as two million elegible expat voters, but adds that between three and four million are excluded. as they have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years. Many British citizens living overseas are writing to PM David Cameron expressing their support for staying in the UK and hoping a special dispensation agreement can be reached due to the exceptional nature of the referendum. Campaigning for the rule to be abolished has been ongoing for years without any result.

In a recent interview with ITV News, founder of the expat association 94 year-old Harry Schindler MBE stated he will take every step possible to ensure the ending of the rule before the vote takes place. If he is not successful, his association is prepared to take the UK government to the high court. When requested to comment, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said the government is committed to the lifetime retention of the right to vote for all UK citizens, no matter where they are resident. He added that the current arbitrary time limit will be scrapped when Parliament has the time to debate the issue.

Last week, a Private Members’ Bill abolishing the rule was brought to debate by Conservative MP Chris Chope, in the hope that the pre-election pledge could be honoured and internet voting provided to expats. The bill was rejected due to a ‘need to get the details right’.
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