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Extracted from an article “The EU Referendum Decision” by Robin Baker, a British expat living in Paris:
“However for me, and I must confess that as an expatriate I am biased in this respect, the worst feature of the referendum was the fact that expatriates of more than 15 years standing were denied the vote.”
“The Conservative Party had promised expatriates votes for life and the Government had over a year to prepare and table legislation to correct this injustice. Alternatively, the referendum could have been delayed until they were ready.”
“The new minister, Chris Skidmore, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office on 17 July 2016. His Policy Statement announcing details of the intended Votes for Life Bill was made at the Conservatives Abroad conference on 6 October, i.e. less than three months later.”
“This timing can only mean either that Skidmore achieved within less than three months what it was impossible to do between the general election on 7th May 2015 and the referendum on 23rd June 2016, or that the paper was already prepared and ready before his appointment, i.e. before the referendum, but not released.”
“Either way I now have no doubt that the failure to table the Votes for Life Bill prior to the referendum was deliberate in order to help the Brexit side win.”
“The Government is to announce on Friday that it will scrap the 15-year limit after which more than three million Britons living overseas lose their right to vote.”
“Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation.
“Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.”
Here’s the link (with thanks to Dominic McGrath) to the related government overseas elector policy statement
Quoting from an article in The Times of 24th September, 2016
“Millions more Britons living abroad will be entitled to vote in the next general election after Theresa May committed to changing the law before 2020.”
“Harry Shindler, a Second World War veteran [and campaigner for expat voting rights] ……said that he received the assurances in a letter from Downing Street dated September 19.”
“The letter from an assistant private secretary to Mrs May said: “Plans to remove the 15-year time limit on overseas voting rights were set out in the government’s election manifesto in May 2015.”
“This will be delivered by means of a government bill once policy details have been finalised.”
“The government said that it was making steady progress on the issue.”
Note: The article is a bit out of date with its figure of 20,000 for the actual number of expats registered to vote, when over 113,000 were registered for the 2015 general election and considerably more (final figures awaited from the Electoral Commission) for the EU Referendum in June of this year.
In his last post as Director of LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, John Van Reenen gives his verdict on the Brexit campaigns, the media, politicians, and being a derided expert.
“The referendum was won on a drumbeat of anti-foreigner sentiment. It’s the same tune being played by demagogues in every corner of the globe. It’s the same tune that was played in the 1930s. It’s the same old beat that rises in volume when people are afraid. In the UK, it’s echoed by a rabidly right-wing press and unchallenged by a flaccid establishment media. Mixed by a band of unscrupulous liars and political zealots, it has become a tsunami of bile that has downed and drowned a once great nation. The only question is which other countries will now be swept along in this poisonous flood.”
“What could have caused such a debacle?”
“Cameron ignored the golden rule about referendums i.e. that one should only ever give the voters a choice between an outcome which the government wants and has planned for, or the status quo.”
“To allow voters to reject the status quo with no clear alternative, leaving them open to the blandishments of a motley assortment of ultra-nationalists, racists, xenophobes, and self-interest groups with no responsibility for delivering on the wild promises they were making, was not simply foolish but appallingly irresponsible”
“It turned what was supposed to be a referendum on EU membership into a vote of confidence in David Cameron’s government.”
You can find his complete series of four articles below:
Brian Cave, a lead campaigner in our “Votes for expat Brits” team, has received from the Cabinet Office the response below (to read the file it’s better to save and then rotate view) to his recent enquiry on overseas voting rights (following the EU Referendum).
It is note worthy from this that the government still has plans to remove the 15-year-limit on overseas voting rights, as set out in their manifesto for this parliament in May 2015.
In addition, it is recognised that UK citizens living in the EU, and citizens from other Member States living in the UK, get a range of rights from UK membership of the EU including access to healthcare, and that all these rights will have to be covered in a successor arrangement.
Overseas Voting Rights
Historically there has been rather a low voting turnout (20,000 – 30,000) from the estimated 5 – 6 million British citizens resident abroad, even assuming that around half could be excluded by the 15-year-limit.
Therefore, the total number of British expatriate citizens actually registered and voting e.g. in the recent EU Referendum, will be an important measure of overseas voter interest in and support for, the above manifesto commitment of the government to introduce a “Votes for Life” bill.
It is encouraging then that an estimated 200,000 – 300,000 overseas voters (over twice the number for the 2015 General Election) were registered for this Referendum; the final figures will be available from the Electoral Commission once it has collected the relevant statistics from the Local Electoral Officers for its overall report later in the year.
EU Referendum – Brexit Analysis
For those interested in an analysis of the final Brexit vote in favour of “leave”, a round-up of research on Britain’s EU Referendum by Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, can be found here.
His overall conclusion is that:
“In the shadow of the 2016 referendum stands one basic assertion that few would contest: Britain is now more divided than ever”
This latest comment just received on our voting rights (sign-up) poll sums up the concerns of a lot of expat Brits, deprived of their right to vote and to make a difference in the recent EU Referendum:
Sean Sullivan – 4 hours ago
Because of the systematic de-industrialisation of the UK throughout my adult life I have found it necessary to be living and working abroad since the early 90s. I’m rapidly approaching the end of my useful working life without any significant pension to fall back on.
My exit plan had been to see out my later years in a much more affordable EU and take short contract jobs under the freedom of movement in the EU. Thanks to Brexit my plans have been blown sky high, and our future looks very bleak indeed!
We are now hoping for Parliament to end this madness. Sadly, as I’m in Qatar, I am not in a position to start applying for citizenship of one of the remaining EU countries.
I was incensed that I was deprived of my vote in the referendum, only a 600,000 vote swing would have secured our continued membership, a near certainty if expats were allowed to vote?
Slovakia’s EU Presidency: Brexit, divided Europe and an opportunity to restore the tarnished reputation
It appears from the article below by Frank Markovic of European Public Affairs.eu, that the unexpected Brexit vote to leave has caught EU leaders as unprepared as the British government. This lack of provision for who will be negotiating with Britain on behalf of the EU, would explain why the European Commission (EC), in a seeming power grab, has taken the lead in proposing a ban on such negotiations until Article 50 is invoked triggering the UK’s departure.
However, according to Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary 2001 – 06, in a letter to the Times of June 30th, this should be resisted as paragraph 3 of Article 50 contains a trap. It makes clear that in the absence of an earlier agreement, the “[EU] treaties shall cease to apply” to the UK “two years after the [original] notification under the Article, unless all member states unanimously decided otherwise. Thus “once the clock is set ticking, the EU ends up with most of the cards in its hands. It can simply sit tight.”
Mr Straw suggests, therefore, that “if Mr Juncker [the EC President] is intent on playing hard ball, so should the British government, and assiduously seek allies with those states (and corporations) that have a shared interest with the UK in a sensible outcome.”
The EU is dominated by a great deal of uncertainty as today the Netherlands hands over the reins of the EU Council presidency to Slovakia.
Last week, British citizens exercised their democratic right and voted, against all expectations, to leave the EU.
On the UK’s side, it is yet to be determined by whom and when Article 50 will be triggered, marking the official beginning of the EU-UK negotiations.
However, it seems that on the other side of the English Channel the EU leaders, oblivious to Brexit as a real threat, have been caught by surprise. As a consequence, no provisions had been put in place to know who will be negotiating on behalf of the EU, what the position of 27 countries will be nor do we have any idea what the future of the EU holds in terms of the necessary structural changes.
None of this had been seriously discussed before 23rd June, as far as is known, among Member States.
In the third of his three articles Reflexions on Brexit – 3. A Question of Sovereignty, Michael Carberry writes that:
“The exit camp seemed to be the ones with the big ideas – in particular that by leaving Britain would “regain its sovereignty” [or according to Boris Johnson “Take back control !” ]”
“But like their other claims the idea that Britain would have more control by regaining its sovereignty is illusory.”
“In reality the EU countries [together with the UK ] are not so much giving up their sovereignty as pooling it to make it stronger and more effective.”
“The idea that the UK could independently, negotiate better deals with India, China or the US than it does as a member of the EU is naive as is the idea that it could obtain special terms of trade from the EU.”
“Any country entering into an international agreement or even just wanting to do business internationally must accept some limitations on its sovereignty.”
“Even the Swiss, so famously jealous of their sovereignty that they have never even joined the UN, have been obliged to accept the single market rules (including free movement), to relax their cherished banking secrecy laws and to accept the circulation of the Euro as a de facto second currency.”
“One could of course withdraw from all such agreements. In that respect the most sovereign country in the world at the present time is probably North Korea!”