British expats will have the chance to vote in the next general election with official confirmation that the necessary legislation will be delivered for the vote due to be held in 2020.

However, should a snap election be called, which could happen for a number of reasons, including the fact that the current Prime Minister Theresa May was not elected by the country but by her own political party resulting in a political push for an early vote, it is unlikely that the law would be changed in time.

UK vote
Chris Skidmore, Constitution Minister, confirmed that the current requirement for expats to have been registered previously in the United Kingdom in order to register as an overseas voter will be scrapped under the proposed legislation.

‘British citizens who move abroad remain a part of our democracy and it is important they have the ability to participate. Following the British people's decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward facing nation,’ said Skidmore.

‘Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two thirds of expats live outside the EU. Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom as they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country,’ he added.

MP Sir Roger Gale, who has campaigned for years for expats to have votes for life, welcomed the news but said it was a shame that the 15-year rule, which meant that after living abroad for that length of time a British citizen could not vote, had not been repealed in time for the recent vote on the future of the UK in the European Union.

‘That restriction denied the opportunity to tens of thousands of UK citizens to vote in the recent EU referendum, however, the Government clearly intends to honour its election pledge to extend the franchise to all UK citizens of voting age, wherever they may currently reside in the world and in perpetuity,’ he commented.

‘That is in line with the practice followed in most developed democracies and I hope very much that the relevant bill will be published soon,’ he added.

It is believed that up to a million British expats will be able to vote when the change is enacted. As well as the general election they will be able to vote in local elections and for the assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.