Long-term British expats set to get vote, but not for EU referendum

by Ray Clancy on June 4, 2015

British expats who have lived abroad for 15 years or more look set to get a vote in UK elections and it is estimated this could see an extra million people able to take part.

Currently, British expats lose the right to vote after 15 years, but various groups have campaigned for decades for this to be changed and the new Conservative government has pledged to do so.

UK vote

Long-term British expats may get to vote in the next election, but not the EU referendum

But a change will not allow them to vote in the crucial European Union referendum which is set to take place in 2017 over the future of the UK’s membership.

‘The franchise for the referendum will be based on the general election franchise, plus members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will therefore be eligible to vote as well as UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years,’ said an official spokesman.

He added that even if a bill giving long-term British expats the vote is passed before the referendum, the 15 year rule will remain in place for that vote.

British expats living in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, which all have large expat communities, are furious and say that the referendum vote could have a huge effect on them regarding issues such as pensions, healthcare and benefits, which are currently reciprocal or transferrable.

Retiree expat Brian Cave, 82, who has lived in France 17 years and headed a campaign for the abolition of the 15 year rule, said a decision to not allow expats to vote in the next general election but not the EU referendum would be ridiculous.

‘The referendum should hear the voice of those who are most affected by the result. Any British citizen within the states of the EU should have a vote. If could have huge implications for elderly people such as myself,’ he explained.

Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP who campaigned for the abolition of the 15 year rule also described a change that would prevent expats from voting in the referendum as bizarre, saying that it if the rule is changed before 2017 then expats should be able to vote.

‘I and others have made it very plain that we believe that every person holding a British passport should have the right to vote in perpetuity in the referendum, if it can be done in time, as well as in the next general election,’ he added.

‘I am a British national married to a Spaniard and have lived in Madrid for over 30 years, although I’m in close touch with the UK and go back several times a year. I was disenfranchised years ago in Britain, and am unable to vote in general and regional elections in Spain precisely because my nationality is British, not Spanish,’ said expat Valerie Stacey.

‘There is no justification whatever for denying long-term British residents in other EU countries the right to vote in a referendum whose outcome will affect us directly and possibly negatively,’ she explained.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Muddled July 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Unless you have a highly specialised degree its next to impossible (if not impossible) to land a job while living outside the country. The best one can hope for is a reply from a prospective employer “Contact us once you’ve moved here”.

This is just hype.


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