British government vows to give long term UK expats the right to vote

Published:  12 Feb at 6 PM
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A press release from Westminster seems to confirm the government is now resigned to lifting the hated 15-year disenfranchisement rule for long-stay UK expats living overseas.

British expats unable to vote Remain in the Brexit referendum due to the ban could well be forgiven for believing the vow is just another promise to be relayed or broken at a later date. However, the press releases stated ‘all those living abroad will be enfranchised to vote'. Under existing laws, it adds, voter registration of British expats is the lowest of any group, stating literally millions of Brits living overseas will soon be able to register.

The time limit for enfranchisement is to be removed, with every UK citizen who was previously resident or was already registered in their local constituency able to vote from overseas. The fight for enfranchisement has been ongoing for decades, with expats given hope on several previous occasions, notably before the 2015 general election. Subsequently, the promise came to nothing and the Brexit referendum passed without those most affected having any say in their futures.

The present announcement is likely to be met with jeers of ‘too little, to late’ echoing across favourite European expat destinations. Minister for the Constitution Chloe Smith’s words included expats’ proposed position post-Brexit in strengthening UK ties across the world, with the entire UK expat community expected to help expand international trade. Given that a good number of expats may well be forced to relocate back to the UK should a hard Brexit be the end result, and others able to stay feeling the loss of a stable expat community in their areas, Smith’s words are likely to have the opposite effect.

Moreover, an exact date for ending the 15-year rule wasn’t given, with Brits in Europe eager to vote should there be a second referendum or a vote on the final Brexit deal. However, updated news now suggests the government won’t allow expats to vote on any Brexit-linked issue, with a Foreign Office spokesperson stating Parliament has the right to decide who can and who can’t vote in referendums.
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