Just under 200,000 British expats have registered to vote in the EU referendum, a small fraction of the several million eligible. British expats in Europe could have been a key constituency, on the assumption that they would be concerned at losing their right of residence. British embassies across Europe were asked to launch campaigns to persuade voters to register, with the embassy in Paris offering afternoon tea at the residence in a competition. But according to the Electoral Commission, only about 196,000 online applications have been received and a recommended cut-off point to apply for a postal vote passed this week. It said estimates showed the number of British citizens overseas might be as high as 5.5m.
The number is a significant increase on the 114,000 overseas voters who applied ahead of last year’s general election but means expat voters are likely to represent fewer than 1 per cent of voters in the forthcoming referendum.
In last year’s general election, for example, the total number of votes cast was 30.7m — more than 150 for every overseas voting application received in the past year. By law overseas voters must renew their registrations each year. Not all applications are likely to be successful.