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Why my vote is important to me

Why my vote is important to me

The long-promised return of our democratic voting rights will be welcomed by British citizens across the world. Those who have lived abroad for more than 15 years have fallen foul of the arbitrary rule denying them voting rights in UK elections and referendums.

As we follow the progress of the Elections Bill, we look forward to the day when the government will finally keep its manifesto promises. But not all British citizens in the UK feel the same way. Many back in the UK believe we have turned our back on our country, and should not have a say on government matters, even when they affect us directly. Apparently, we have “lost interest” in UK life and politics.

We were fairly certain our members would disagree, so we asked them why the return of their voting rights was so important to them. This is what a few of them had to say ……………

Jeff Myers

Although I live in Spain I have family and friends in the UK, so it is important to me to be able to vote regardless of how long I have lived outside the UK.

Helen Johnston

Contrary to what many seem to think, what our government does still affects us in many ways. Its foreign policies and actions affect how we are seen and treated abroad, and we still have family and friends there whose future we care about. Many British abroad also still pay UK taxes, have UK pensions or are even employed or have businesses there. Linking voting rights to taxpaying is a dangerous, slippery slope, however, it shouldn’t matter where you live or whether you pay taxes, the right to vote is a fundamental human right of all citizens.

Nicole Conroy

I want my vote returned to me so that the next time somebody comes up with a stupid idea, like Brexit, and leads Britain into disaster I would like to be able to do something to stop them. Added to this I am Mancunian and our beloved Emily Pankhurst did not fight to get women the vote for some idiots to take it away.

Pat Kennedy

No one, surely, likes a right to vote being denied.

Richard Milner

I have had the right to exercise to vote since I was 21. To be denied the right is an infringement. Ever since Cameron was elected and came up with the stupid Brexit vote, I would like to be able to stop something as stupid happening again 

Linda Stebbings

Our pensions are Crown pensions as well as having family and grandchildren still living and working in the UK. Therefore, if we are paying into the UK tax system we should be entitled to vote. 

Ruth Woodhouse

Events of 2016 and beyond obviously highlighted the injustice of the current situation, in that many were denied a vote in the EU referendum – and, again importantly, the General Election of 2017 (an election largely based around Brexit) – the outcome having life-changing ramifications for British citizens who had chosen to move from one part of the EU to another on the basis that their rights to freedom of movement, and all that this entailed, were guaranteed. I personally still contribute in taxes paid on my pensions, on property I own in the UK, etc., and I believe I have a right to a say in how that money is used and a say in policies that directly affect my life.

Michael Soffe

Having lost my vote in the UK elections many years ago, and having now had my vote stolen from me in European elections owing to Brexit, it is not a “good” feeling to realise you have no vote anywhere in elections that will be of any importance on your future. I also have pension rights in the UK and I want to make sure these are protected. 

Sian Shaw

I moved to Spain on retirement, but have family and property in the UK, pay tax on my public service pension there and on my property income: I am deeply concerned by the present disastrous political situation. I would lose my right to vote this year unless the new legislation takes effect. 

Linda Theaker

Like it or not, as UK citizens, there are many decisions taken by politicians that affect us directly – Brexit being a typical example. It is absolutely essential that we should be able to vote. I also have interests in the UK, still have to pay some tax in the UK (despite being a fiscal resident here in Spain), and have my family in the UK. What happens to them is very much my concern.

Diana Thurston

I am still a British citizen and I still have a house in Britain where I spend time each year…I should be able to vote in the country where I hold nationality.

Richard Sweeting

Many, many years ago I lost my right to vote in the UK and I would like it restored to enable me to show my agreement or displeasure with the Government of the day over international affairs such as Brexit. 

Roy Stonebridge

There are things that affect us overseas, such as Brexit, the UK economy, pensions and exchange rates and it important to have a say on those issues. 

Ruth Hag

I’ve served my country over my lifetime in the NHS and later on with social services helping others less able. Now that I’ve been retired in Spain for many years , I just want to be able to vote (in my own tiny way) to ensure that these services remain secure in the future.

Dorothy Morgan

I am still a UK citizen and depend on my UK pension and a couple of small private pensions. So I feel I have a right to defend my future here in Spain by choosing the political party that is best for me.

Victoria Robinson

I have one Passport and it’s a British Passport, I’m still a British citizen and have a right to be able to vote. I particularly like the idea of having an MP for expats.

Margaret Meg Metcalfe

I am a British citizen and will always remain so. The fact that I executed my right to move to another country in my retirement has no bearing on the fact that the right to vote is a fundamental human right of all citizens. I have a state pension and also a Crown pension, you actually get those for having served your country in some way. I’m a descendent of friends of Emily Pankhurst, who fought alongside her to get the vote for women. They must now be turning in their graves that both men and women have had their votes stolen from them.

Sue Wilson

Like it or not, they are still my government. They have the power to make decisions that directly affect my life in Spain & my mother’s life in a care home in the UK. I rely on a British state pension as my only source of income & the UK government are directly responsible for paying for my healthcare. So, yes, what happens in the UK is very important to me & I want my say!

Nicholas Thorp

Due to the lack of a dual nationality agreement between Spain and the UK, I am unable to exercise my democratic right to vote in anything except local elections in Spain, unless I give up my British nationality. And next year due to the 15-year limit on expat voting rights, I will lose my vote in the UK too. How is Europe democratic if it allows that to happen?

Stewart Luscott-Evans

I have 6 British children, and yet none of us were permitted to participate in any way in the 2016 referendum which stripped us all of our European Union citizenship, despite repeated undertakings in Conservative manifestos.  To say I feel betrayed and angry by the lies of the Leave campaign and the UK government since then is an understatement.

Patrick Howarth

More than anything the fact that I was not allowed to vote in the referendum makes me furious.

David Rosemont

I really object to having no vote anywhere anymore.

Guy Brook-Hart

Brexit has had an effect on many British people with ties to Spain.  Those, like myself, who have lived in Spain for more than 15 years, were disenfranchised and unable to participate in the referendum which affected us more than most other people.  I don’t know if allowing us to vote would have affected the result, but I do think our opinion should have counted.

Martin Lister

I would like the Conservative party promise of being allowed to vote in U.K. elections to be delivered

Valerie Chaplin 

Having lost my vote both in the UK, with the 15-year rule, and here in Spain due to Brexit, I feel totally disenfranchised. Even though I moved to Spain, my pensions and healthcare are still governed by the UK, and I have no say in the outcome. I paid into the system all my life.  

I also have no say on what happens in the UK that affects my friends and family there. 

Lisa Burton 

As a British national living in Spain for 11 years, I have already paid enough tax in the UK to qualify for a full British state pension. I will also pay tax on a private pension, when it matures, to the British government. I have an 18-year-old established company in England that pays significant sums of VAT and corporation tax to the British government while employing individuals and their families. Like many British nationals living overseas, I have adult children who live in Britain, elderly parents and extended family, so, of course, I am deeply invested in the political policies of my home nation as it still affects myself, my business and my family. Also, many of us will end up returning to the UK in our old age to spend time with family and grandchildren or to get support as we age, so links are rarely severed, and strong connections remain. We are the representatives of our home nations while we live abroad and closer ties, more recognition, including a vote for life from our government would certainly have a huge ‘soft power’ benefit to the UK. Something this government seem to have forgotten about. 

Mike Phillips 

I have 3 children and 7 grandchildren in UK, many of whose lives have already been adversely affected or restricted by Brexit. I have lived in Spain for 16 years and pay tax on my Armed Forces and Civil Services pension despite having been disenfranchised, so being able to have a say in decisions made in the UK is very important to me. This is a breach of my fundamental human rights. 

 

Votes for Life 2021 – The Elections Bill

Votes for Life 2021 – The Elections Bill

The date for the second reading of the Elections Bill has been announced as 7 September, at 12.40 BST.

The second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the general principles of the Bill. At the end of the debate, MPs will vote on whether they think the Bill should proceed to the next stage – the Committee Stage.

You can follow the progress of the Bill here

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV, or watch a recording after the event here

On 26 July, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) announced a new enquiry into the controversial Elections Bill.

The bill includes government plans to introduce voter ID at polling stations, the aim being to “protect the integrity of elections”. However, many campaigners have argued that election fraud is extremely rare, and the bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Committee Chair William Wragg said:

 

“These proposals make significant changes to the implementation of and potentially participation in elections. It’s natural that they are properly interrogated and claims by the Government that the plans would protect our democracy are tested before implementation. Although few would argue against shoring-up our electoral system in principle, it’s critical to ensure that it is done correctly, that it is fair, and that it is necessary to do so.”

Of course, the bill also includes the long-awaited restoration of democratic voting rights for Britons living abroad, affected by the arbitrary 15-year rule. We are encouraging our members to write to their MPs with their views on the Elections Bill – good and bad – and we will be presenting evidence to the committee in due course.

You can read more about the proposed enquiry here

You can read more about PACAC here

If you wish to submit evidence to the committee, you can do so here. The deadline is 31 August 2021.

Veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler OBE, has been fighting for the restoration of our democratic voting rights for 25 years. 
On 17th July 2021, he celebrated his 100th birthday. Bremain could not let this occasion pass un-noticed, so we asked our members and other campaign groups to join us in sharing our good wishes.

Bremain members contributed to our birthday book. You can view the book & read our members’ comments here

Campaign groups across the UK & the EU contributed to our dedicated video, which you can view here

We wish Harry a very happy birthday, & many more to come.

On 5 July 2021, the government bill set to restore our democratic voting rights was finally brought before parliament. A government press release stated that the new legislation was designed “to strengthen the integrity of UK elections and protect our democracy”, and included this aim:

“To increase participation in our democracy, the Bill will deliver the longstanding commitment to remove the arbitrary 15 year limit on overseas electors voting in UK Parliamentary general elections.”

The Elections Bill is proving controversial, though not because of the scrapping of the 15-year voting rule. The cause for concern is the planned introduction of voter ID, which threatens to disenfranchise many further voters, and is regarded by many as undemocratic and unnecessary.

Bremain will be following the passage of the new bill with great interest, and will provide regular updates.

More information on the Elections Bill is available on the official government website here.

You can also access updates on the Parliament website here, including the latest government publications and details of the bill’s progress. The government describe the bill thus:

 

“A Bill to make provision about the administration and conduct of elections, including provision designed to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process; about overseas electors; about voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens; about the designation of a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission; about the membership of the Speaker’s Committee; about the Electoral Commission’s functions in relation to criminal proceedings; about financial information to be provided by a political party on applying for registration; for preventing a person being registered as a political party and being a recognised non-party campaigner at the same time; about regulation of expenditure for political purposes; about disqualification of offenders for holding elective offices; about information to be included in electronic campaigning material; and for connected purposes.”
For further information:

Read the Elections Bill in full here 

Read the Explanatory Notes here 

Read the Elections Bill Impact Assessment here

Votes for Life Update from the British Embassy

Votes for Life Update from the British Embassy

The government has announced today that British citizens who have moved abroad will be given ‘votes for life’ as the UK Government scraps the arbitrary 15-year limit on the voting rights. All British citizens who are living overseas who have been previously registered or previously resident in the UK will be able to vote in UK Parliamentary General Elections. In addition, the new rules will mean overseas electors can stay registered for longer requiring them to renew their registration details once every three years, rather than annually. Overseas electors will also be able to reapply for a postal vote or refresh their proxy vote at the same time as renewing their voter registration, streamlining the process and helping to ensure they have appropriate voting arrangements in place ahead of an election. These changes, which will form part of the Elections Bill will come into effect in time for the next scheduled General Election in 2024. UK Nationals living in Spain can also vote in local municipal elections in Spain once they have been resident here for more than three years.

Votes for Life has been featured in the Press too, including some articles written by Bremain Chair Sue Wilson. Click the links below to read more:

Yorkshire Bylines

El Pais in English

The Olive Press

The Local

Europe Street News

Votes for Life Update from the British Embassy

Votes for Life – a Bremain Campaign Update May 2021

Bremain in Spain has been campaigning since 2017 for the repeal of the fifteen year rule which has prevented UK citizens living overseas from being able to cast their vote in UK elections. You can read the history of UK overseas voting in the House of Commons Library. Click the link to our Votes for Life Facebook Page or here to read more about our campaign.

Most Western democracies allow their citizens living overseas to vote in elections with the exception of the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, but that is about to finally change. Since the 2010 General Election and each subsequent election, the Conservative party have pledged to repeal the fifteen year rule and provision was made in this year’s Budget in March – you can read more about that here. In yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, as part of the Electoral Integrity Bill, the commitment to remove the fifteen year rule was announced. You can read the briefing notes here

 

This means that the Bill should pass through Parliament in this current session but it is likely that some MPs will try to amend the Bill to prevent the return of voting rights. We therefore cannot sit on our laurels and expect it to pass without opposition. The Bremain team over the next few weeks will be planning how to ensure that we can equip you with as much information that we possibly can, along with some useful tools for you to use when lobbying your MP or the MP in your last UK constituency. This page and our Facebook Page will be updated so keep an eye out for further information in due course.

Our Chair Sue Wilson has just published an article for Yorkshire Bylines about the Electoral Integrity Bill which you can read here.

Meanwhile, here are some links to the Votes for Life announcement in the media:

The Guardian

Bermuda’s Royal Gazette

The Mirror