Responding to our continuing arguments against the current 15-year-limit on the voting rights of British citizens resident overseas, the latest letter from the Elections & Democracy Division of the Cabinet Office again explains (see the extracts below) that in this respect, being disenfranchised would not affect one’s status as a British citizen, the UK voting franchise not based on being a UK tax payer. How can this be so when the 15-year-rule effectively reduces the voting status of British citizens overseas, to below that of resident Commonwealth and expatriate Irish (who cannot vote in Ireland) citizens and who are legally entitled to vote in UK national elections?
“……..under the 1985 Act, the voting rights of ‘overseas electors’ did not continue indefinitely, but for five years from the time when the UK citizen was last resident and on the electoral register in the UK. Parliament decided to impose a time limit on the eligibility of overseas electors to vote in UK elections, as it was thought that generally over time their connection with the UK would diminish. The length of the time limit has been changed over the years, first increasing to twenty years under the Representation of the People Act 1989, before being reduced to fifteen years from 1 April 2002. In this respect, being disenfranchised of your right to vote in UK elections would not affect your status as a British citizen.”
“The UK voting franchise is not based on being a UK tax payer, so it does not necessarily follow that, because someone pays taxes in the UK, he or she has the right to vote in the UK. Some foreign nationals living and paying tax in the UK are not eligible to vote.”
Concerning the issue of whether or not British expats actually pay UK taxes, a member of Labour International and without the right to vote as an expatriate has explained that…..
“a large majority of us do so. As a former civil servant and my wife a former teacher, we both pay substantial amounts of tax in the UK and will have to do so for the rest of our lives. Anyone in receipt of a Government pension has to pay UK income tax – former military personnel, police officers, teachers, NHS employees, civil servants and many, many others.”
How can continuing to pay taxes in the UK without the right to vote there, be reconciled with the statement that “this would not affect your status as a British citizen”, when some Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident and paying taxes in the UK can also vote there?
The government response then that “the UK voting franchise is not based on being a UK tax payer” in fact reduces the national status of British citizens overseas below that of Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident in the UK.
Show your support for the removal of the 15-year-rule by adding your vote here.