Why doesn’t the British government show more interest, compared with other countries such as the US, in retaining links with its citizens moving overseas?
One illustration of this is that after 15 years away, British citizens living overseas automatically lose their national right to vote and their details are not retained on the Electoral Register.
Yet the World Bank estimated in 2010 that there were over 4.5 million Britons living abroad, the most of any developed country. Others put the number higher but seeming government disinterest only adds to the uncertainty in any calculation of what must still be considered a major national resource.
According to The Economist of September 8th 2012 (Emigration: On the road), today’s emigrants are subtly different from before with 7% in 2006 of pensionable age but less than 2% in 2010. More importantly for the future, the proportion migrating mainly to find work in the global economy has risen at the same time from 47% to 57%, with companies also increasingly relocating staff to more dynamic economies. Even from the educational standpoint, with higher fees at home and more active recruitment from abroad, more British citizens are likely to go overseas to university e.g. British participation in the EU’s Erasmus programme to encourage study in other member countries has risen strongly over the past 5 years.
Looking to the future of the UK economy, the government should be more actively engaged with the British diaspora, its know-how and investment potential and not be perceived to actively encourage it to sever its links through barriers such as the 15-year-limit on UK voting rights.
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