Scrapping the 15-year UK expat voting rule is ‘a major win for democracy’

Britons who have lived overseas for over 15 years receiving the right to vote in UK general elections is a major win for democracy.

The Elections Bill is set to abolish an “arbitrary” rule that, as it stands, means that people who have resided outside Britain for over 15 years lose their voting rights in a general election.

According to official estimates, this will enfranchise over 3 million British expats. That said, this figure could be substantially higher as many expats fail to register in their new countries of residence with the relevant authorities.

The overwhelming majority of expats retain deep ties with Britain – including financial links such as UK pensions, taxes and property. Therefore, the policies in play in the UK impact them and their families.

As I was quoted by International Investment, amongst other media, it’s absolutely correct that their voices should be heard in parliament, irrespective of where they chose to reside.

Scrapping this 15-year voting rule is a huge win for democracy and will be championed by British expats across the globe.

However, the ruling arrives too late to offset the injustice of the fact that more than 700,000 UK expats who are disenfranchised from Britain’s political system after 15 years were deprived of a vote in the Brexit referendum, something that directly impacts them.

Before the 2019 general election I spoke out about the issue of expat voting rights. All other G7 countries except Britain permit their citizens voting rights for life.

Why is the UK different? Many people are still liable for inheritance tax for example, yet cannot vote in Britain after 15 years.

Those expats who want to vote will need to have been previously registered, or have lived in the UK, and voters will only need to renew their details every three years rather than every year.

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak said during the Budget in March that “the government is providing an additional £2.5m to remove the limit preventing British citizens who live overseas from voting after 15 years.” This was the first sign that the government would deliver on its promise on this issue.

This move marks considerable progress, but the government needs to act quickly to get the ruling implemented before the next general election.

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