The British Government has published detailed plans on how it will deliver its commitment to return the right to vote in parliamentary elections to all expats. To what will be inevitable criticism that it comes too late to those who wished to vote against Brexit, Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore has today announced that the policy seeks to remove the current rule that means British citizens abroad can only vote for 15 years from the point they were last registered to vote in the UK.
Skidmore says, however, that “Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation. Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU. Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country.”
The policy seeks to give a lifelong right to vote to all British citizens overseas who were previously resident or registered to vote in the UK. It will ensure that all eligible overseas electors are able to register to vote and renew their registration in a convenient and timely fashion while maintaining the integrity of the electoral register and guarding against fraud. Currently, overseas electors will remain entitled to vote in parliamentary elections, but not in any other elections (such as local elections or elections to the devolved legislatures).
The government welcomes feedback from any interested party on these proposals. Comments on the proposed policy can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The policy document itself can be viewed HERE, and is the latest in a series of measures, the FCO says, to make it easier for overseas voters to take part in British democracy. During the last Parliament, the government introduced online voter registration, making it quick, easy and secure to register anywhere in the world. The government also took steps to extend the electoral timetable for postal ballots to be issued earlier to ensure that as many electors as possible can participate in their democracy.