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‘Votes for life’ for British citizens living abroad

‘Votes for life’ for British citizens living abroad

New measures announced in the Queen’s Speech will make it easier for British citizens who have moved abroad to participate in UK democracy, according to a statement released today on the British Government’s Cabinet Office, on their main website.

The UK government vowed to scrap the law, introduced in 2002, that bans British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from taking part in UK elections.

Decisions made in the UK Parliament on foreign policy, defence, immigration, pensions and trade deals affect British citizens who live overseas. It is therefore right that they have a say in UK Parliamentary General Elections, said the statement.

The British Government is setting out further detail on their plans to scrap the arbitrary rule that prevents British citizens from voting in General Elections if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.

These 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.

Lord True, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, 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 fulfil 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, requiring them to renew their registration details once every three years, rather than annually.

This will mean all Brits living in Europe and beyond will be eligible to vote in future elections, regardless of their length of time abroad.

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.

Those affected will be allowed to register in the constituencies where they lived before leaving the country.

Those who are entitled to vote should, said the Government, always be able to exercise that right freely, securely and in an informed way. The Government’s wider Elections Bill, they say, will also: improve access to voting for electors with disabilities; prevent foreign interference by hostile actors; tackle electoral fraud by post, proxy, in polling stations or through intimidation and undue influence; and increase transparency and accountability within our elections.

The government set out their plan in the Spring Budget pledging £2.5 million (€2.9 million) to revoke the law.

The limit excluded British emigrants, known commonly as “expats” from taking part in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, a vote that directly impacted the lives of UK citizens living in the EU.

The GOV.UK website are set to publish further announcements on these measures ahead of the Bill’s introduction.

  • British citizens who have moved abroad will be given ‘votes for life’ as the Government scraps the arbitrary 15-year limit on the voting rights.
  • New measures announced today will also make it easier for overseas electors to remain registered to vote for longer.
  • Together, these changes will empower more British citizens living overseas to participate in our democracy.

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