Millions of Britons living abroad are being urged by the Electoral Commission to register to vote by 16 May so they can take part in the EU referendum on 23 June. About 5.5 million British citizens are estimated to live outside the UK, with at least 1.2 million of these living in other EU countries, but only a fraction are on the electoral roll. Anyone who was registered in a UK constituency during the past 15 years is entitled to vote in British elections, but half of British expats are not aware of this fact. A survey of eligible voters by the Electoral Commission, the non-partisan body that oversees elections, found that 30% of people were unsure about the rights of overseas voters, while 20% thought, wrongly, that they were not allowed to vote. The commission surveyed 4,700 people, but mostly those living in Europe, meaning the survey is not representative of all British overseas voters.
At the 2015 general election, only 106,000 Britons abroad were on the register, although that number has jumped by 80,000 since mid-March, when a voter-registration drive began.
Britons living in other EU countries would be among the most affected by Britain leaving the union. Settling the status of their acquired rights would be “a complex and daunting” task, a cross-party committee in the House of Lords warned last week.