Saturday, 29 October 2016

Controversial 15-year Voting Restrictions for Expats Set to be Lifted by 2020

Controversial 15-year Voting Restrictions for Expats Set to be Lifted by 2020

Little to late for Brexit voters
The law is changing and now expats will be able to register to vote even if they’ve been abroad for over 15 years. The change is expected to come into effect by the election in 2020.

While the change came a little too late to potentially prevent the Brexit, the British government have confirmed that they plan to scrap the 15-year rule that prevents long-term expats from voting in British general elections and referendums.

The decision to remove the barriers to voting in time for the 2020 election was made last Friday. The change means that any British national will have the right to have their voice heard in the next general election; regardless of how long they have been living in Spain or abroad.

The current rules were quite controversial as they denied British citizens the right to vote if they had been living outside of the UK for over 15 years. The rule was called undemocratic by critics. There were also people who defended the rule; saying that people who had abandoned their country for so long had no right to say how the country should be run.

It looks like the government has decided to accept that the rules were indeed unfair. They issued a policy statement called “Democracy that Works for Everyone” in which they stated that they do indeed plan on scrapping the rule.

Constitution Minister Chris Skidmore said that overseas electors still contribute to British society and that they should still have the right to vote. He added that the government intends to give these people the right to register to vote quickly enough to get them voting in the 2020 election.

MP Skidmore continued to say that there is more to being British than just living in the UK; British people are British citizens no matter where they live. He added that these Britons abroad still kept their strong cultural and social ties with Britain and their families at home while they continue to build businesses abroad. The decisions that are being made on British shores affect British citizens the world over, many of whom plan to eventually return to the UK in the future the MP said in a column he wrote for the Telegraph newspaper.

The 15-year rule has become particularly pertinent in recent years. Then-PM David Cameron promised to scrap the rule in the 2015 general election. It is a move that proved to be a vote winner but, after the election was over, he clarified that the rule would not be scrapped before the planned EU referendum. It is unlikely the referendum would have passed if the rule had been scrapped by then, so perhaps this was a move Mr Cameron regrets now. The referendum was pretty close and many living abroad in Spain  would have likely voted to remain, which would potentially have given the Remain camp the votes they needed to win.

While many expats will likely feel that the rule change is a little too late, many will welcome the scrapping of such an unpopular policy. It could even potentially lead to more people leaving the UK as they know that their vote will still count now.