The anomaly of British expatriates losing their national right to vote after 15 years resident within the European Union (EU), is illustrated by Anthony Pickles’ article in The Commentator below on how French expatriates resident in the UK will be represented in the French Parliament. It is also challenged by Harry Shindler in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
In the British case “additional constituencies for expats”, when the number of Westminster MPs is being reduced, is not the main issue since British overseas voters can vote for up to 15 years in the constituencies where they were last registered. The main issue is that after 15 years a British overseas voter is then disenfranchised with electoral law through the Electoral Commission (see www.votes-for-expat-brits.com) determining that he or she has essentially severed all links with the UK.
In contrast, as Anthony Pickles points out about French expats in London “There is no doubt too that the UK’s geographic proximity to ‘la patrie’ means that they are never too far away from home. In fact, a Eurostar can get you from London to Paris quicker than you can be in the North of England”. The question then is why is this not also the case for a British expatriate still living in Paris after 15 years away?
However, in the case of the British expatriate according to this Commentator article ” It would be hard to argue that somebody living outside of the UK for longer than 15 years should have the right to influence an election for those still residing within the UK”. It could also be argued that in the same competitive, globalised economy the French value the contribution of their expatriate citizens more than the British do their own and, therefore, adopt the opposite position with no time limit on their voting rights.
The article poses another question “How will a French MP in l’Assemblée Nationale represent his or her constituents? If there are problems with the drains or bin collections, will they write to le deputé or their MP in Westminster?” The answer is that British expatriates in France under EU law can vote in local French elections eg for someone “to help them with their drains or bin collection problems”, as can French expats in the UK.
However, a British expatriate resident in France cannot vote in French national elections and, according to current British election law, after 15 years away cannot vote in British national elections either! A British expatriate in such a situation has then lost his or her democratic right to vote in their country of birth because of what now seems a rather arbitrarily chosen and out-dated 15 year rule for a globalised world economy.