UK Government announces changes to voter eligibility requirements for British expatriates

On 7 October 2016, the UK government published detailed plans on how it will deliver its commitment to allow all British expats to vote in parliamentary elections.

The Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, announced the policy statement which sets out how the government will remove the current 15-year time limit on British citizens who live abroad registering as overseas electors.

The changes would give all eligible British citizens who have lived in the UK a lifelong right to vote in parliamentary elections. It would mean all eligible overseas electors are able to register to vote quickly and easily, while maintaining the integrity of the electoral register and guarding against fraud.

Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, said:

This statement shows how we will introduce ‘votes for life’, scrapping the 15-year rule. British citizens who move abroad remain a part of our democracy and it is important they have the ability to participate. Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation. Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.

Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country.

Questions from a Bermudian and BOT perspective:

  1. Why not extend the franchise to all British citizens resident in British Overseas Territories? Indeed, why not offer seats in Parliament to representatives of the British Overseas Territories?
  2. How would the Brexit Referendum result been different if these electoral changes had been made in advance of that Referendum taking place (or if the Court challenge had been successful)?
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