Why are British expatriate citizens living within the European Union (EU) still penalised by having their right to vote in UK national elections removed after 15 years abroad? The current pre-election furore in the UK over uncontrolled immigration could also discriminate against British citizens in the future by restricting their right to freedom of movement within the EU.
The freedom of movement of workers within the Community and the freedom of establishment of nationals of one member state within the territory of another are, as we are frequently reminded, fundamental principles established by the then EEC in 1957 and maintained by the European Union today.
There are two key reasons for this:
- One is the question of individual liberty. Governments should not dictate to citizens where they can go and where they can live and work. The benefit of that hardly needs emphasising to those British expatriates who take advantage of it either just to live or to both live and work within the European Union (EU). Many other EU member state citizens do the same in Great Britain.
- The second is that this liberty is an economic benefit, to individuals and to the economy of Europe as a whole. It permits workers, particularly the most motivated and the most valuable among them, to go where the contribution that they make is most valued and most appreciated. That maximises the economic benefit that they make to Europe (including the UK) as a whole.
If you are a British expatriate with less than 15 years abroad, you should make sure that you are able to vote in the May 2015 general election by registering on the British government website here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote