EU Referendum – 23 June 2016

Update 20 February: David Cameron has announced that the referendum will take place on 23 June. The announcement came after two-day negotiations in Brussels and a cabinet meeting this morning. Six Govermnent ministers have immediately joined the Vote LEAVE group, with others like Boris Johnson still to announce their position, but the official British Government recommendation is to REMAIN in the EU.

There is information immediately below on eligibility and registering to vote. To hear the Radio Sur Adeje hour-long special programme on the issues relating to the referendum, and considerations on how to vote, see HERE where it can be downloaded. For my own ideas of what might happen if the UK were to vote to leave the EU, or at least the issues that we as expats need to think about, see HERE.

Update 24 January 2016: The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has said that although the date of the EU referendum is not yet known, it is due to take place by 31 December 2017 and British citizens resident abroad can already register to vote.

To register as an overseas elector you must have been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years. You will need a valid passport, to provide your date of birth, and know your National Insurance number (it’s possible to register without a NI number but other information will be required as proof of identity). Those who were too young when they left the UK to have been registered to vote can still register if their parents were registered in the UK in the last 15 years. To register click HERE: the process takes less than five minutes.

The FCO says that it should be easier to vote by post for this referendum than for previous elections as the timetable for postal votes has been extended to allow postal votes to be sent out even earlier than usual, giving voters more time to receive, complete, and return the ballot pack to the UK.

The FCO has also announced that 4 February 2016 will be an Overseas Voter Registration Day, a day of activity supported by expat community hubs, overseas branches of UK political parties and embassies and consulates from around the world. Anyone who is interested in getting involved and encouraging people to vote should let the Electoral Commission know.

Update 1 September 2015: The Electoral Commission has told the UK Government that it needs to change the wording of the EU referendum question. David Cameron had promised a yes/no vote, and the referendum question was to be “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”. Now, however, the Electoral Commission has carried out its assessment analysis and review, and has announced that the question, although not “significantly leading”, could be considered biased, and its legitimacy could therefore be challenged by campaigners. The reasoning is that the question only refers to “remaining a member”, not “leaving” the EU, and so the psychologically attractive “yes” answer would be for the status quo. The commission says that the question should be amended to ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The question would require voters to choose between the answers ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ / ‘Leave the European Union’.

Original post 28 May: The British Foreign Office has announced that the new Conservative Government has published legislation today for a referendum to be held before the end of 2017 on the UK’s EU membership. As promised by David Cameron during the election campaign, it’s an in-out referendum, with the question needing a straightforward yes-no answer: the question will be “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’”

In view of some varying reports and confusion over who may vote in the referendum, this is the situation – direct from the FCO itself:

Delivering on the Prime Minister’s commitment to give the British people a very simple choice on the UK’s membership of the EU, the EU Referendum Bill was introduced into Parliament today.

Contained within the Bill is the question that will be put to the electorate, as well as making clear the franchise for the referendum.

Voters will be asked: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will be eligible to vote as well as UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years.

The franchise for the referendum will be based on the General Election franchise, plus members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar.

This means that Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in the UK will get a vote, but other EU citizens won’t.

In line with the Prime Minister’s commitment, the Bill also confirms that the referendum will be held by 31 December 2017.

The Bill is being introduced 40 years after the last referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Ahead of the referendum, the Prime Minister will discuss with EU leaders how the UK can work with partners to reform the EU and renegotiate our relationship with it.

So, British nationals who are resident in Tenerife will get a vote in the referendum provided they have lived outside the UK for under 15 years – the same entitlement as for UK general elections. The Government’s reasoning for the specific franchise governing the right or not to vote in the referendum is detailed in THIS memorandum. The progress of the Bill through Parliament can be followed HERE.


  1. Author

    I think the arguments on that, one way and the other, will rage over the next few months! I wrote THIS a while ago, and when the UK’s ambassador to Spain was in Tenerife recently (link), I asked him what would happen to, or be done for, Brits living here if the UK were to vote to leave. His answer was the archetypal diplomat’s answer … “we’re not anticipating a negative result, we’re working to win the referendum and expect to do so, but if we were to lose then we would negotiate with Spain on various levels … “.

    AND it’s most important to remember that regardless of the result of the referendum, anyone provably legally resident here for five years (i.e. registered with the police as required and having a Certificado de Registro) then becomes entitled to permanent residence anyway, under EU law … and that is via Spain’s membership of the EU, and nothing to do with the UK or its place in the EU.

    Moreover, anyone who was first registered as a legal resident before 24 April 2012, and who has remained legally resident throughout (i.e. never deregistered), and who has an annual income of less than €100,000, and who has no other healthcare cover, can apply to be registered for free healthcare in Spain as a resident. That’s the case now, under Spanish legislation, in any case.

  2. I wonder what material effect there would be for an expatriate living long term in Spain if the UK voted for Brexit. The expatriate would after all remain in the EU.

  3. I have queried this 15year deadline with David Cameron’s office and await a reply. Why is our right to vote being denied in this all important referendum. Expats in all EU countries need to vote on this all important matter and therefore need this 15year decision revised to allow us to vote. Should the referendum go with the vote TO leave the EU this could have far reaching implications for all expats given the proposed criteria currently being discussed.

    1. Author

      Good luck with challenging it! As far as I’m aware it’s all in line with expat voting in other elections.

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