UK government plans to scrap 15-year voting rule for British expats
According to reports, the UK government could soon end the highly unpopular 15-year rule that stops millions of British expats from voting in national elections in the UK.
Cynics might say that the announcement is just an attempt by the Conservative led coalition government to try to win extra votes. Those expats hoping to get a say in next year’s general election are going to be disappointed however as the pledge comes with a price tag. The Conservatives will only attempt to scrap the rule IF it wins a majority in 2015.
“We want to protect the rights of citizens overseas who have contributed to Britain all their lives. Millions of British citizens live and work across the globe. Many expats have worked hard, contributed all their lives, and have close family living in Britain. “If the Conservative Party wins the next general election, we will remove this cap and extend it to a full right as a British citizen to vote in British elections for life,” said a Tory spokesman.
UK citizens living overseas have been campaigning for such action for a number of years and a number of campaign groups exist as a result.
The expat voting rules have experienced a number of alterations over the past 30 years. Before 1985, expats were not allowed to register to vote in UK national elections.
The Representation of the People Act 1985 however allowed expats to register as overseas voters in the constituency for which they were last registered. This entitlement was initially only available for those expats who had lived abroad for no longer than five years. In 1989 the figure was raised to 20 years.
Under the Labour government of the late 90’s and early 00’s the act was altered yet again, this time to 15 years.
The European Union has been pressuring the UK government for some time over the issue and has on more than one occasion said that by denying them the vote expats are being punished for their choice to live overseas.
Other nations do allow expats to vote with the most recent example being Turkey where a large number of its citizens living overseas voted to elect Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the nation’s next president.