British Expat Campaigns Against Disenfranchisement

By Editorial 23 July, 2013

A Parliamentary Working Group on Overseas Voting has received a submission criticizing the disenfranchisement of British citizens who live abroad for more than 15 years, and describing lack of official information on the restriction as "shoddy practice in the extreme."

A judgment by the European Court of Human Rights confirmed in May that the UK had the right to keep the rule as a measure to ensure that only those with a "continuing, close and objective connection with the UK" are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.

The submission was made by Margaret Hales, a British citizen living in Spain. She explained that she had only become aware that she would lose her vote after she had been living in Spain for a year, and that MPs and Peers are uninformed on the subject.

Hales observed that disenfranchisement applies even to retired service personnel who have seen military action, and even though citizens must continue to pay tax to HM Revenue and Customs. She also quoted Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the EU Commission, as stating that: "The practice of some Member States of depriving their citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement."

Hales further complained about negative perceptions of expats among MPs and the media, arguing that many were working abroad on behalf of British interests, or had retired abroad after serving their country overseas. Speaking from her experience of Spain, she explained that many British expatriates maintain a British way of life and an interest in British affairs, and lived in what she described as a "ghetto" system of British businesses and facilities.

In 1997, Hales received an MBE for service to politics, and since relocating to Spain she has campaigned on voting awareness among British expats. In her submission, she explains that her sense of community service may have come from her ancestor Emmeline Pankhurst, who campaigned for women’s voting rights in the UK in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Tags: United Kingdom | European Union (EU) | Expat Services | Expats | Working Abroad | Europe | Work | Working Abroad | Working Abroad |


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