Too little too late repeal of 15 year UK expat disenfranchisement

Published:  26 Sep at 6 PM
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After years of broken promises, lawsuits, appeals and campaigns against expat electoral discrimination, it seems UK citizens who’ve lived overseas for over 15 years may yet get the vote.

The millions of Brits living in EU member states and recently excluded from voting for their future security in their chosen destination may well greet yesterday’s announcement with scorn. Theresa May’s commitment to reversing the 15-year rule by the time of the next general election in 2020 has a hollow ring as, if a ‘hard’ Brexit is in place, those unable to vote may have been forced back to the UK.

David Cameron’s promise in his 2015 electoral manifesto gave a glimmer of hope, but, as with many such UK governmental promises, was reversed with the excuse the Electoral Commission would find its nuts and bolts too confusing to implement. Expatriates reading about the government’s ‘renewed commitment’ to perpetual voting rights could be forgiven for regarding it as a meaningless exercise in political spin as well as too little, too late.

The news of Theresa May’s decision broke via a letter from her office to WW11 veteran 92-year old Harry Shindler, for 16 years a vociferous but unsuccessful campaigner for the rule to be overturned. The letter stated a government bill drawn up following finalising of policy details will end the anomaly, adding that steady progress was underway on the issue.

The new law, should it actually happen, will affect around five million British expatriates, with around two thirds at present disallowed from voting as they’ve lived outside the UK for over 15 years. Many expats now facing an uncertain future are commenting that, had Mr Shindler’s determined efforts been successful, the result of the Brexit referendum would have given them the certainty of being able to continue their lives overseas.

Most British citizens who chose to live abroad decided on EU member states as they believed their rights would be protected by EU law. The Brexit referendum was the most crucial electoral decision for six decades, with millions whose voices should have been heard denied the chance to vote to protect their lifestyles. Many now feel their exclusion questions the legitimacy of the referendum process itself.
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