By Fergal MacErlean • 29 April 2022 • 12:32
Credit: Ethan Wilkinson. Pexels
British expats previously lost the right to vote 15 years after they last voted in the UK.
The new measures announced in the Queen’s Speech will make it easier for British citizens who have moved abroad to participate in UK democracy.
The changes, which will form part of the Elections Bill, will also include measures to enable overseas electors to stay registered to vote for longer, with an absent voting arrangement in place.
Ministers are to implement the changes during the current parliament.
Minister of State for the Cabinet Office Lord True, said: “In an increasingly global and connected world, most British citizens living overseas retain deep ties to the United Kingdom.
“Many still have family here, have a history of hard work in the UK behind them, and some have even fought for our country.
“These measures support our vision for a truly Global Britain, opening up our democracy to British citizens living overseas who deserve to have their voices heard in our Parliament, no matter where they choose to live.”
The proposals fulfill a manifesto commitment to deliver ‘votes for life’, extending the voting franchise for General Elections to all British citizens living overseas who have been previously registered or previously resident in the UK.
In addition, new rules will mean overseas electors can stay registered for longer, including with an absent voting arrangement in place, requiring them to renew their registration details once every three years, rather than annually.
Electors will be able to reapply for a postal vote or refresh their proxy vote at the same time as renewing their voter registration, streamlining the process and helping to ensure overseas electors have appropriate voting arrangements in place ahead of an election.
The government’s 2019 manifesto included a commitment to “make it easier for British expats to vote in [UK] Parliamentary elections, and get rid of the arbitrary 15-year limit on their voting rights”.
The bill will extend voting rights to some 3.5 million British nationals living outside of the UK, with more than one million living in Europe.
The long overdue move follows years of campaigning by expats.
Prominent campaigner 100-year old Harry Shindler OBE, who lives in Italy, challenged the 15-year-rule in the European Court of Justice.
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Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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