The 15-year cut-off date that prevents an estimated one million overseas British from voting in UK parliamentary election is to be scrapped.
The Votes for Life bill was announced in the Queen’s speech today but those keen to vote in the European in/out referendum remain disappointed.
The election promise by UK Prime Minister David Cameron means an end to the arbitrary 15 year cut-off date and a victory for expat campaigners who have been battling to have the right to vote, even if residing overseas for more than 15 years.
Many overseas residents also are banned from voting for an MP in their country of residence and the opening now to vote in the UK elections is a vindication of the work of campaigners such as Harry Shindler, living in Italy in his ‘90s, whose only option until now had been to take Italian nationality – a step too far from the London-born former WWII soldier.
For every bit of good news there is some bad with Cameron’s conservative government confirming today that the 15 year rule will remain in place until after the referendum on Europe which is due to take place before the end of 2017, claiming rather weakly that ‘there is not enough time’ to legislate for the lifting of the ban.
Tireless expat campaigner Brian Cave, who has lived in France for 17 years, said today that he was pleased at the scrapping of the 15 year voting ban, but can see no reason why the legislation cannot be changed to enable ‘15 years or more’ Britons to take part in the forthcoming referendum which may markedly affect many expatriots, especially those resident in Europe.
In an statement today, Brian Cave said “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 there was an exit it would have huge implications for elderly people such as myself – the health support could cease.”
Giles Goodall of the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats commented, “We strongly welcome the government’s plan to end the disenfranchisement of British citizens abroad, as the Liberal Democrats called for in our general election manifesto. The 15 year rule is an anomaly which must be brought to an end.
“However, it is disgraceful that the government does not see fit to give this very same group the right to vote on our future membership of the European Union, despite the fact that the future residence of around two million Brits living in other EU countries will be directly affected by the vote.”
Citizens from other EU countries living in Britain also are barred from voting in the UK referendum on Europe. Goodall said, “It is scandalous that the government wishes to deny a voice to other EU citizens, who have come to our country in good faith and now face the possibility of losing their right to remain due to a referendum in which they will not be allowed to vote.”
The right to vote in elections is one thing but of the chaos surrounding the handling of overseas votes in the recent UK general election is typical of the voting infrastructure, the efforts of campaigner may have been in vain as thousands were prevented from voting as mysteriously they had not received their ballot papers in time.
Downing Street said today that the Votes for Life Bill will make it easier for overseas voters to vote in time and it will encourage larger numbers of British citizens living abroad to register to vote in UK elections.
Source:- Algarve Daily News