Long-term expats will have their right to vote in British and European elections restored. However, they will be unable to vote in the European referendum if they’ve lived abroad for more than 15 years. The Votes for Life Bill, announced after the Queen’s Speech today, will scrap the 15-year rule that sees expats lose their votes in UK and European parliamentary elections once they have been out of the country for that long. This had been promised by the Conservatives in their manifesto. The rule affects around one million of the five million British citizens overseas. However, Downing Street said it will remain in place for the referendum on Europe, as there is not enough time to enforce the change by the time of the vote, due by the end of 2017 at the latest.
It said: “The franchise for the referendum will be based on the general election franchise, plus members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will therefore be eligible to vote as well as UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years.”
… Citizens of other EU countries living in Britain will also be barred from the referendum and Mr Goodall said: “It is scandalous that the government wishes to deny a voice to other EU citizens, who have come to our country in good faith and now face the possibility of losing their right to remain due to a referendum in which they will not be allowed to vote.”
The Government pledged today to avoid a repeat of the chaos surrounding the general election earlier this month where many British citizens overseas did not receive their postal vote ballot papers in time.