Will Expats be able to vote?
The European Commission and Council is under pressure this week to protect the rights of expats to vote in the European elections in May. British expats are excluded from the right to vote in national elections after 15 years of living abroad. A similar rule also applies to citizens of Malta, Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Denmark who don’t have the right to vote if they reside outside their country of origin. The restrictions were originally introduced based on the assumption that expats aren’t affected by political decisions made in their country of origin.
Cecilia Wikström is a Member of European Parliament and is leading the campaign to reinstate this fundamental right to vote. Peoples’ rights to vote in the European elections in May could also be affected. She said:
“Limiting or depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country could be seen as an infringement of freedom of movement under EU law”
Wikström has received huge quantities of letters and emails from disgruntled expats across Europe who feel they have been disenfranchised.
What would these voting rights change?
If the campaign is successful, British expats could find themselves in a position to vote on a Brexit deal or a second referendum, should the occasion arise. This would be a basic right for the millions of British expats who will be directly affected from the outcome of Brexit, and who had no say in the original vote in 2016.
Back in February 2018, the government did reinstate its commitment to ending the current 15-year time limit on British expats registering as overseas electors, but it is currently still not a reality.
The British Community Committee of France (BCC) created a website to petition for votes for British expats – you can find out more about that here – www.votes-for-expat-brits.com and various associations continue to fight for these rights.
If you are concerned about the possible consequences of Brexit, you can contact us here or call +41 22 311 1441 for information regarding retirement and pension options as a British expat, or a European having lived and worked in the UK.