ICYMI hidden in the Budget presented to the House of Commons on 3 March was an inkling that UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will, at long last, get the right to vote in general elections.
The announcement was made in the fine print of the Budget and allocates some £2.5m to fund the change. Paragraph 2.41 of the Treasury Red Book, which sets out details of the government's planned spending says: "Overseas Electors - the government is providing an additional £2.5m to remove the limit preventing British citizens who live overseas from voting after 15 years."
It is believed that legislation to effect the change will be laid before Parliament later this year. Successive governments have promised to change the law, passed in 2002, which removes UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from the electoral roll.
British citizens living overseas are currently entitled to be registered to vote in UK Parliamentary elections for up to 15 years in the constituency they were registered before leaving the UK. The proposed changes will introduce 'votes for life'.
A House of Commons ‘Research Briefing on Overseas voters’ was published the day after the Budget and provides details of the provisions relating to overseas voters in the Representation of the People Act 1985 and the proposals for change. It also summarises earlier attempts to change the 15-year rule.
Who are we?
The Brexpats Hear our voice group - a Citizens’ Rights campaigning and support group that campaigns for the preservation of the rights of British nationals in the EU – has just published the results of a survey they undertook to understand better who the British living outside of the UK are.
Not surprisingly the found that "They can’t be defined by one simple label, the narrative has to change, they deserve better, they deserve far better". You can access their report here.