David Cameron has been told by Conservatives Abroad to hurry up with a bill to restore British expats’ full voting rights. The Government promised in the Queen’s Speech in May to abolish the so-called “15-year rule”. This currently prevents around a million of the five million Britons overseas from voting in UK and European elections if they have lived out of the country for that period of time. However, the Votes for Life Bill to restore their rights has not been tabled for debate in Parliament yet. With the EU referendum looming in 2017 – and potentially as early as next year – expats in Europe are concerned they might not be able to participate. In May, a Downing Street spokesman indicated that the 15-year rule would remain in place for the referendum, causing concern among expats who want to have their say.
Paul Barnes, the Conservatives Abroad head of campaigns, said: “It was our campaign within the Conservative Party that persuaded the party to commit to the Votes For Life Bill in the 2015 manifesto. “We are delighted that the measure was in the first Queen’s Speech. The Government has committed to using the general election register for the referendum. This means that British expats abroad for less than 15 years can vote.
“We hope that the Votes for Life Bill will have gone through in time to be in force for the referendum. But it depends on the timing of the Bill and the referendum. We are pushing for this and will raise it with John Penrose, the Constitutional Affairs Minister.”
Full Article: EU referendum: expats push for voting rights – Telegraph.