15 year expat voting rule promise trashed again by Whitehall

Published:  17 Aug at 6 PM
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Despite the British government’s pre- and post-Brexit assurances that expats who’ve lived overseas for more than 15 years will finally get the right to continue to vote, civil servants are claiming the plan is too complex to administer.

The British government’s refusal to allow long-term expats living overseas to vote in the Brexit referendum caused massive resentment in expat retiree communities, especially after the result was declared. Long-stayers rightly feared their lifestyles, businesses and properties would be at risk if their right to remain was lost.

Post Brexit, David Cameron again reiterated the law would be changed to allow around a million expats the right to vote, using the phrase ‘being a British citizen is for life’. However, this promise is set to go the way of the earlier Tory electoral manifesto promise, as civil servants in Whitehall are refusing to act, claiming the plan is too complex.

Whitehall’s callous blocking of the Tory promise to overturn UK expat voters’ disenfranchisement is the latest in the sorry saga of expat relationships with the British government. The plan is again being shelved, using the excuse that electoral registers are only kept for a period of 15 years, thus preventing the establishment of voting rights in expats’ former residential constituencies.

Campaigner for the change in law and Tory backbencher Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is certain the reason being given by Whitehall is simply an excuse and an obvious stalling tactic. Stating the so-called complications have never been mentioned during discussions about the law change, Clifton-Brown argued that evidence of a former place of abode should be all that is necessary. Doctors’ notes, National Insurance numbers and passport numbers should all suffice, he added.

It’s not just UK expats who’re angry about not being able to vote, as Canada has a similar law, with expat disenfranchisement starting after only five years’ stay overseas. Expat opinions hit the headlines yesterday when PM Justin Trudeau appealed to all Canadians living overseas to donate to the ruling Liberal Party. Online comments from Canadian expats ranged between ‘offensive’ to the unprintable, but all posts carried the same message – ‘give us back our constitutionally guaranteed vote’.
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