Why British Expatriates also don’t Vote?

With falling voter turnout such a cause for concern in the UK (only 31% in the 2013 local elections and 65.1% in the 2010 general election, the latter compared with +75% in 1964), why does the political establishment continue to maintain a voting ban on British expatriates after 15 years abroad? 

An ICM Research poll featured in The Guardian of 26th December 2013

“which explores the reasons behind the precipitous drop in voter turnout – particularly among under-30s – finds that it is anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster.”

Interestingly, although the political parties have various plans to make voting more accessible and convenient (i.e. “the  mechanics of democracy”) – currently a major and off-putting bureaucratic obstacle for would-be expatriate voters in general – this seems a virtual irrelevance for resident British citizens:

“Only 2% of the electorate regard the inconvenience of registering and then casting a vote as a reason not to do so, suggesting that proposed measures such as weekend or electronic voting are unlikely to make a big difference to election turnout.”

Similarly, a Labour policy for the voting age to be lowered to 16 is unlikely to increase turnout rates, given that at the 2010 general election only 46% of those aged 18 – 24 voted compared with 76% of over-65s.

Yet, if it is recognized that 16 – and 17 -year-old citizens deserve the full right to vote, why not also more mature British expatriates even after 15 years abroad? It is estimated that currently some 10% of the British adult population does not register to vote although this is a legal obligation. This estimate is also unlikely to include the unknown number of those still eligible to vote out of the estimated 5 – 6 million British citizens resident abroad, many resident in the European Union who will not even be able to vote in a referendum on the UK’s continuing membership.

This entry was posted in Democratic Right to Vote, Expat Voter Registration, Voting Rights, Why Expat Brits don't vote?, Why Low Expat Voting Rates, Worth of Grey Vote and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Why British Expatriates also don’t Vote?

  1. Michael Cushing says:

    re IF Mr C gets the Westminster establishment to grant the right to hold a referendum in/out EU in the first place and there was a vote yes to exit EU I cannot follow the notion that UK citizens would loose their EU Citizenship – the virtually universal formula for citizenship – place of birth OR a parent / grandparent so it will take about 120 years before UK non EU citizens would be affected ( ie people born in UK after ‘ UK EU independece whose parent /grandparent never held EU citizenship !!!! Back to the real issue Right of Representation see my other blogs

    • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

      I thınk you will find that European citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship so presumably if the UK is no longer a member of the EU an ındividual would no longer be eligible to claim that protectıon.

  2. Allison Bell says:

    If we have not lived there for 15 years, I personally do not think we should have a right to say what goes on in the UK. I live in Canada and have my citizenship. I vote here because I live here. Just saying

    • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

      Allison all expats are assessable for UK income tax and some are required to pay. Do you not think they should have some voice in how that money is spent?
      There is also the question of all the expats who live in the European Economic Area – should they not have some say on whether the UK remains in the EU or not if a referendum is held? After all their UK State Retirement Pension index linkıng and associated benefits could be in jeopardy and become frozen like those who are currently being discriminated against in Canada and elsewhere. Should these UK citizens be denied the vote on their future?
      Just saying.

    • right2vote4xpatbrits says:

      Thank you for your comment, Allison. In taking up Canadian citizenship you have demonstrated your long term commitment to Canada and of course you also then have the right to vote in common with all Canadian citizens of voting age. Many British expatriates have moved or continue to move with their work between different countries and it’s then more difficult for them to decide where finally they might choose to take up a different citizenship. Other British expatriates taking advantage of freedom of movement within the European Union(EU)are not so far removed physically from the UK, some indeed hold property and other UK assets including state pensions and health entitlements and feel that they also have a right to say what goes on in the UK particularly in the event of a Referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the EU. A subsequent UK withdrawal would certainly impact their life on the European Continent and not necessarily to their advantage.


  3. Michael Cushing says:

    Andy Robertson-Fox sounds like the moon might be a better place for you ( no pastures though !) As I’ve said before on blogs the EU ( ECHR ) has a control on 28 countries to hold them to respect citizens rights ( equality ) which does influence the outcome of the internal party political vagaries of parliaments . The UK is part of EU and us European Citizens cannot loose that status ( even if Mr C. tries to hold a Referendum on in / out of EU !) The current UK political wave anti expats / Exiles will not suceed unless the UK Westminster Parliament wants to be recognised round the world as NON DEMOCRATIC it will slide the UK into chaos / take youre pick from historical events . This blog is about Mechanics of Democracy so one can only hope that by making a unified voice on this issue it will succeed . I concider myself an Exile of the UK as I am disenfranchised .

  4. Michael Cushing says:

    Don’t quite follow you Andy Robertson- Fox unless you are somewhere that has no tax treaty with Uk inc EU and many other countries . . Yes youre UK provider of funds has to be informed of your non UK residence for to not be taxed at source by UK ( see my other blogs )

    • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

      Simple really – my income is derived solely from UK sources. I am not permitted to work under the terms of my visa and, therefore, I cannot supply details of any ıncome from my country of residence and consequently have no tax liability in that country eıther (any local liability would have to be confirmed by the Labour Office). So, although a Double Taxatıon Treaty exists it is not appropriate and my liabılıty to pay UK tax remains- as is the case, I believe, for many retired expats.

      • Michael Cushing says:

        Andy Robertson -Fox – something not right – country of residence is the first condition for about 200+ countries re tax . Where your income comes from is not relevent in that formula neither restrictions on right to work – you should not be paying tax to UK ( except per my previous blogs ) . Does your country of residence bar you from being a resident ? !( trying to be helpfull ) Doesn’t get away from the UNDEMOCRATIC ACTIONS OF UK WESTMINSTER PARLIAMENT disenfranchising its UK citizens since 1985 !!

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        The country concerned was Thailand; my visa was a retirement one and working paid or unpaid is prohıbıted. It is valid for only one year – it can be extended on an annual basis but evidence of guaranteed income from sources outside of the country and in excess of GBP 1500 per month ıs required (or a Thai bank account showıng a runnıng balance of not less GBP16,000 per annum) by Thai immigration. My income was not subject to Thai tax and therefore not eligible under the Double Taxation Treaty that exists between the UK and Thailand. As far as I am aware residence visas are available in limited numbers at considerable cost in tyıng up capital ın bonds and consequently well beyond the fınancıal means of the average expat. My income comprises the state pension, a Civil Service pension and a private sector pension but I was ın contact wıth other expats who had only prıvate sector pensıons and who were treated no differently.

        I actually left Thailand just before Christmas for pastures new…but not the UK.

        And yes, I agree, disenfranchising UK citizens simply on the grounds of where they are living is totally unacceptable and undemocratıc.

  5. Michael Cushing says:

    Per my previous comment UK citizens overseas have never had the right to representation ( except afore mentioned ” 5 , 20, 15 year rule ” condition / ammendments in / to the 1985 Act ) An exclusive representative ( MP ) is not practical either as the representation would be traversing 4 jurisdictions . The right to apply for registration to ones previous electoral registrar ( current ) is the only option for representation unless the whole Representation of the Peoples Act was changed – equality of constituencies being the problem

  6. George Morley says:

    How can anyone realistically be opposed to allowing citizens to vote ? This should be a right as we are all still answerable to the government in one way or another and the politicians really don’t seem to realise that we are all ambassadors abroad and can have influence in the local community especially those people that have worked abroad for many years in the interests of a UK company. Wake up you dozy politicians.

    • Michael Cushing says:

      Can polititions Wake up – once they ” quit their constituency bounderies ” they seem to forget the notion that they represent citizens especially in Westminster and join a club !! ( sorry for those MP’s in minority who do try to represent the people )

  7. Jane Davies says:

    Because I retired to Canada my state pension is frozen, unlike my counterparts who retired to the USA along with the majority of expats who do not suffer this theft of cost of living increases, I now will soon suffer the loss of another right, the right to vote. I still pay taxes to the UK but I will have no say in how my money will be spent…but hey, the EU think that criminals have more rights than a taxpayer and are demanding they have the right to vote. Doesn’t that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?…… No?…. Me neither, the UK is the only country in the world to freeze the pensions of 4% of their expat citizens when ALL are entitled to enjoy annual uprating and the only country in the world to deny some of it’s citizens the right to vote, blatant discrimination on both counts.

    • Michael Cushing says:

      Many democratic governments exclude its overseas citizens from representation ( voting ) . UK might be the only one which has passed an ACT – Representation of the Peoples Act 1985 for the right to register to vote as an overseas Citizen in the first place then apply conditions / ammendments that disenfranchises its citizens ( see my other blogs ) . Re being taxed by UK generaly this only applies to Government Works Pensions and income from a UK property – all other pensions / income is for the tax authorities of ones country of residence . Re the frozen UK state retirement pension as an overseas Uk Citizen = contrary to the rights to the freedom of movement ECHR stops this happening in EU at present . The UK Westminster Gov . HAS TO CHANGE BACK TO BEING DEMOCRATIC

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        Michael Cushing you say that – Re being taxed by UK generally this only applies to Governement Works Pensions and income from a UK property – and all other pensions / income is for the tax authorıties of one’s country of residence. All UK cıtızens are assessable for UK Tax purposes and any income derived from a UK source be ıt pension (state, occupational or private), property, interest on savings or whatever. The level of that income determies liabılıty but it is possible, where a Double Taxation Treaty exists between the UK and the country of residence, to be granted, in some cases, an exemption from paying UK tax. Many expats are still paying tax and yet do not have the right to vote and for those that do the time scale between the closing of nominations and the electıon ıtself ıs inadequate to allow ballot papers to be receıved, completed and returned.
        When one adds to this the totally disgraceful anomaly of frozen pensions – as described by Jane Davies – the treatment of expats by successive governments is shameful.

  8. Mike Kearney says:

    It seems to me that it has always been difficult for UK expats to vote, because the postal voting documentation is sent out so late. At the last election, I only had one day to decide who I was going to vote for and get the papers back in the post. None of the candidates had bothered to send me any information about their policies, let alone what they might be prepared to do for overseas voters.
    But there can be no justification for removing the right to vote after 15 years.
    Our home country should see us as unpaid ambassadors, rather than traitors and give us our own exclusive MPs to represent our concerns.

  9. Michael Cushing says:

    “the mechanics of democracy” Since the UK Westminster parliament is clearly not a democracy how can the disenfranchised UK Citizen be represented to make a change to democracy ?? All the hot air eminating from Westminster can not , has not , changed the most basic piece of the mechanism of democracy – Citizen equality – representation of the people. To be kind if possible the notion of UK overseas citizens being accepted by the independent electoral commision to register as an overseas voter is relativly recent – Representation of the Peoples Act 1985 ( all jurisdictions ) = historic evolution of Westminster . Thereafter Westminster MPs have commited an undemocratic act by failing to rectify / ammend the obvious Citizens Right to Representation . IN A DEMOCRACY NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO EXCLUDE A CITIZEN . The 1989 ammendment was undemocratic – even though it extended the disenfranchisement period from 5 to 20 years ! See my other blogs on voting rights notably The Election , Political Parties , Referendums Act 2000 all UK ammendment reduce the period to 15 years – in my book not the legally correct instrument as it should have been specifically Representation of the Peoples Act 1989 ammendment 2000 Act..( why not have put the ammendment in a Road Traffic Act or something ??? )

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