Copies to all participating political parties and Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP - and circulated world wide to concerned groups and persons.
Messages to Citizens Abroad on the May election from the United Kingdom Political Parties.
Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, The Green Party and the UK Independence Party (UKIP)
Below No. 1 - is a most important document from 'New Europeans' detailing why Expatriates should have representation. It is immediately relevant to the debate in the House of Commons to be held on 6th March 2015
Over the past four weeks all five Nation-wide Parties have been requested to State their policy towards Expatriates.
This request has been made four times by the Campaign for Votes for Expatriates and several times both by phone and email by the journal The Connexion.
The third time of asking was elaborated and is attached to this mailing - It states reasons why Citizens Abroad should have political representation.
The fourth time of asking was more abrupt.
The Conservative Party replied at the first request to both the Campaign and The Connexion, The Lib-Dems apologised to the Connection for not being able to respond. Three others replied later. The messages are given below in order of their reception.
The Liberal-Democratic Party has not replied to The Campaign.
All the four who replied were sent a draft of this mail so that, if they wished, they could modify their message
Email addresses of the authors of the replies are given below to three of the messages. You may wish to comment or question further. If so, you can respond to them.
The sender of this mail is only relaying these messages and offers no opinion on their content.
Please recirculate to your own groups and of course friends and relatives.
Messages from the Parties
The Conservative Party is making a manifesto commitment to protect the civic rights of British citizens living overseas. Millions of British Citizens live and work across the globe. Many have worked hard and contributed to Britain all their lives, continue to pay tax in the UK and have close family living in Britain.
Like many other countries, the UK continues to protect British citizens living abroad with its military, Embassy network, and passport and other services. However, Britain currently restricts the rights of these citizens to vote in General Elections. The last Labour Government reduced the amount of time that British citizens living overseas were entitled to register to vote in UK General Elections to just 15 years. This is just one of many mistakes that they made.
If the Conservative Party wins the next General Election, we will remove this cap and extend it to a full right as a British Citizen to vote in British elections for life.
Authorship email Mitchell Cohen ---- Mitchell.Cohen@conservatives.com
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
We believe passionately everyone should exercise their democratic right to vote, including expats who still cherish their fundamental ties with Britain.
Issues that UKIP passionately champions are equally relevant overseas. None more so than the EU. Some 70% of UK law, and no doubt the proportion of legislation made in other EU countries where expats may live, is now made by Brussels, by unelected bureaucrats. Our democracy and that of the 27 other member states, has been seriously compromised by EU membership and by a power hungry elite who are more interested in expansionism than serving the people. The economies of many Eurozone countries are in a catastrophic mess, with rising unemployment, plummeting house prices and increasing discontent among a disenfranchised public.
People often raise the argument that if the UK pulled out of the EU, many expats living abroad would be forced to return or would be cut off, without support. How ridiculous! British expats by and large take business abroad, they move abroad with money, or they retire somewhere with better weather. They are rarely competing with the country's young people for work, or emigrate for more favourable welfare benefits. Equally a vast number of expats are in Australia, which has never been part of the EU.
UKIP actually wants a new, changed and better Britain, which is forward looking and global in attitude. Not shackled to an outdated and failing economic and political project from the 1950s that has done more to damage the economy, our democracy and the global reach of the country. Any Brit, wherever they live, that believes in Britain, should back UKIP as the real party for the future.
Authorship email Alexandra Phillips ----- email@example.com
The GREEN PARTY
“We are actively considering a commitment that all pensioners living abroad receive the same pension and annual pension increase as those living in the UK.”
“We will release further details in our General Election manifesto”.
Authorship:- the Green party representative declined to accept mails on this issue.
THE LABOUR PARTY
As you know, British expats who have been resident and registered to vote in the fifteen years prior to an election are eligible to vote in elections for the UK Parliament and the European Parliament as long as they are registered as an overseas voter.
We appreciate that there have been calls for this 15-year rule to be relaxed or abolished in Britain and that this is supported by some expats who are currently unable to vote in UK elections or are at risk of losing their right to vote in upcoming elections. We also recognise that a number of other countries do allow permanent voting rights for expats.
The voting rights of British citizens is, of course, an extremely important issue and we agree this should be looked at carefully. As you say in your letter, a Ten Minute Rule Bill - the UK Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill - has been introduced to Parliament and proposes to legislate for permanent voting rights for British expats. The Bill is now scheduled to receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th March.
Labour hopes this Bill will provide an opportunity for the House of Commons to debate this issue and consider the merits and demerits of the current 15-year rule.
We also believe we need to do more to encourage all citizens - expats and those registered in the UK - to register to vote. It is welcome that the Electoral Commission has set a target of getting 100,000 more overseas voters registered before the next General Election. The introduction of online registration also means it is now easier than ever for Brits abroad to register to vote. It remains important, though, that the Government continue to look into other ways of engaging British citizens abroad to register and participate in elections.
Authorship email A Williams office of Ed Miliband, firstname.lastname@example.org
The LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
No reply has been received from the Liberal-Democrats.
1, On the 6th March Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP is launching in Parliament the second reading of his 10 minute Bill to remove the 15 year limit on Voting by Overseas Citizens. (Overseas Voters 15 year rule Bill) to view go here --- http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Live.aspx
2. To Register to vote go here https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
3. Comments are best sent to MPs http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ or the HQs of the various parties.
General comments can be posted to this link-- http://votes-for-expat-brits.com/Sign-up-Poll.php
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
-Votes for Britons -http://votes-for-expat-brits.com
These are the email attachments mentioned by Brian.
1. Important –Request for your policy on OVERSEAS VOTERS (abridged)
The British Citizens Abroad
Reasons why Citizens Abroad should be concerned about the performance of the British Government and why they should vote.
Firstly – Why do they not register to vote?
Is it because few politicians take any interest in them and they see no point in voting for politicians who apparently are not interested in their welfare.
Secondly Why they should have the vote and use it. Three reasons – Social, Cultural and Financial.
1. They all have relatives and Friends living in Britain.. Children, Brothers, Sisters, Parents, Uncles, Aunts, and many Friends from childhood and past residence and work. They communicate with them frequently. Their views will influence the political scene in the UK. They may well return to the UK to live in later years. The development of the UK society and its social systems and welfare is of great concern to them.
2. They are as much aware of the British activities on the World Stage as any who reside in the UK. Culturally they are ingrained with British culture and are inherently Ambassadors for Britain, whether they are truly conscious of it or not! Many are pursuing careers which promote the British economy. In Europe many listen to the TV and radio broadcasts from the BBC, Sky and ITN every day as though they resided in the UK.
3. Large numbers are totally dependent on the UK for their income. Many are dependent on the UK for their social security support - directly or via treaty arrangements. [ADDITIONAL comment - For all British pensioners in the EU the UK is the ‘competent State’ responsible for their social security.]
In all matters affecting the above the Citizen Abroad is never consulted by the political system in Westminster and Whitehall. This is a disregard of the principles of Democracy.
From the Campaign www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
This notice is sent to the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and UKIP.
Party Messages to overseas voters. (Repeat of the previous two requests)
With contacts across the world and particularly in the European Union, it is intended to circulate a campaign message from all National Parties to all those British Citizens who have the potential power to vote in the May elections. It will reach hundreds of citizens many of whom forward onwards to their own circulation lists.
(Certain journals – print and online will receive this.)
The message needs to state
• Why the expatriate should cast a vote for your Party.
• Why the expatriate should encourage their friends and families resident in the UK to vote for your Party.
Please, if you can (it helps), limit your response to 200 words.
All messages will be circulated together in the first week of March.
This message is sent to all Parties with UK wide interest. If no reply is received then that situation will be reported.
2. New Europeans Briefing - Overseas Voting
Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill 2014-15
Private Members Bill On 6 March 2015
New Europeans welcomes the Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill. The Bill seeks
to end a rule which disenfranchises British overseas electors.
We also welcome the recommendations of the Political and Constitutional Reform
Select Committee in its ‘Political and Constitutional Reform - Sixth Report
Voter engagement in the UK: follow up’ published on 18 February 2015.
The Committee recommended that ‘the proposal for removing the current 15-
year limit on British citizens living overseas from participating in UK elections
should be considered as part of a wider package of measures aimed at
increasing engagement by this group, as this change would simplify the
eligibility criteria and make it easier to promote registration to British citizens
no longer resident in the UK.
Currently, UK citizens who have been living abroad for more than 15 years,
automatically lose their right vote in the UK.
We believe that the rule is unfair and have joined forces with organisations abroad
such as Votes For Expats to campaign for the abolition of the 15 year rule
Labour International, Liberal International, and Conservatives Abroad have also
campaigned for a change in the rule.2 | P a g e
The ’15 Year Rule’
Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that
‘every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity (to vote), without any of the
distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions’
The very existence of a rule which disenfranchises overseas electors after 15 years
spent abroad, whose only ‘legitimate’ aim appears to be to restrict the parliamentary
franchise to those individuals who are affected by decisions made in Westminster or
who have retained ties with the UK, does little to promote participation or to give a
voice to overseas electors.
In our view, it is also punitive and arbitrary.
Even if we were to accept that the franchise in parliamentary election should be lost
after a set period spent abroad, which we do not, we certainly can not condone the
automatic restriction of such a fundamental right after 15 years, applied
indiscriminately, regardless of any ties one might have with the UK.
Is it fair, for example, that an overseas citizen who draws income from the UK or
owns capital in the UK, has no say or no influence though political participation on
how much tax is levied?
Those in favour of the rule would argue that an assessment of one’s ties on a caseby-case basis would be cumbersome and could lead to inconsistent decisions. We
submit that such assessments are carried out by the Department and Works and
Pensions in Winter Fuel Payments cases for overseas pensioners who reside in
another EEA country.
One is entitled if s/he has ‘retained sufficient and genuine links with the UK.
Guidance has been issued by the DWP which states the factors to take into account:
Personal factors: for example whether the claimant is receiving a UK benefit,
Periods of residence or work in the UK, for example, where the claimant has
spent a significant part of their life in the UK
Where the claimant has worked and paid UK NI contributions as a result of
Time spent abroad is not a ground for disqualification in the enjoyment of certain
rights and seems to only apply for the right to fully participate in political life.g e
The importance of this Bill
The IPPR report, ‘Global Brit: making the most of the British Diaspora’ (2010) took
the view that ‘the British population overseas has the following characteristics:
• They are a clearly identifiable and self-identifying national group
• They have a sense of empathy and connection with other Britons in their country of
• Residence and in other countries overseas
• They retain an attachment to the UK and an interest in its affairs
• They mobilise collectively or show a willingness to be mobilised.
“Even emigrants who have lived for many years abroad, or who feel they have
committed themselves wholly to a new life in a new country often maintain significant
links or attachment to the UK”
The evidence strongly suggests that the argument that links to the UK are somehow
lost after 15 years spent abroad, i.e. the argument in support of the 15 year rule,
has no evidential basis. It is simply an assumption.
We should pose the question as to whether a society, which promotes fairness and
confers undeniable rights, can justify excluding a portion of the electorate (which is
already significantly under-represented).
A successful re-engagement with the overseas electorate requires accepting that
they can play an active part in their country and should have a say in how their
country is run regardless of any time spent abroad or whether they are affected by
decisions made in Westminster
The 15 year rule is an anomaly and should be removed.
In Brits Abroad (2006), The Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) showed
that there were more than 5.5 million British citizens living abroad permanently
although the figure is believed to have increased to 5.6 million.
Only 15,848 British overseas are registered to vote in the UK Parliament Election
which represents less than 1% of the total overseas citizens. This is by far the least
registered group within the UK electorate.
With the exception of 1991, registration of overseas voters is higher when there is a
UK General Election and the large increase in registration of overseas voters in
1991 may have been influenced by amendments to the law, which provided that
overseas voters were eligible to vote in UK Parliament elections up to 20 years (
rather than 5) after leaving the UK.
Sources ONS, Electoral Statistics and personal communication and www.parliament.uk%2Fbriefingpapers%2Fsn05923.pdf&ei=b8tHVPDzK8LO7gbj0ICwBQ&usg=AFQjCNFNPQVjX7qI1kE7a-EuPdAxi6azFg
New Europeans launched an online survey targeting British citizens living abroad to
provide some preliminary indication of the existing barriers to registration and to
understand how overseas British citizens felt about their right to vote in UK
The survey was completed by 215 respondents who were reached via social media
and through partner British expats organisations. Participants from the following
countries took part (please note that the list is not exhaustive):
Within the European Union: France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, the
Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Poland , and Greece. Outside of the European
Union : China, Thailand, Australia, Canada, United States of America,
Switzerland and Turkey
We have also received some positive support from British citizens abroad in Los
Angeles and Mexico through this short exercise.
The potential worldwide reach is encouraging and New Europeans will continue to
establish working relationships with key stakeholders nationally but also
internationally to facilitate better engagement with British citizens abroad.
In the House of Commons Debate on 27 June 2012 at c243, Mr Geoffrey Clifton Brown
MP in proposing to add a clause to remove the 15 year rule during the
passage of Electoral Registration and Administration Bill 2012-13 explained his
reasoning as follows:
According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, 5.6 million British citizens currently live abroad. The shocking truth is that although, as of last December, about 4.4 million of them were of voting age, only 23,388 were registered for an overseas vote, according to the Office for National Statistics’ electoral statistics.
Out of 4.4 million potential overseas voters, only 23,000-odd are actually registered! Half the problem is the difficulties of the registration process, which I brought before the House during the clause 1 stand part debate on 18 June, but the other half of the problem is the cut-off limit or qualifying period.
The issue of restrictions on overseas voters was reviewed in the House of Commons
in 1998, with the Home Affairs Select Committee publishing a report on Electoral
Law and Administration. However, the section of the report that related to overseas
voters only focused on the maximum time for which a British national living abroad
should be able to register to vote. The committee reported that for various reasons a
cut-off point of 20 years was not suitable.
It took the view that for a British citizen Living abroad for 20 years, an understanding of politics would be rooted in the past and not in contemporary British politics. It also highlighted the low registration rate of British nationals living abroad and the cost of extending the franchise to 20 years.
Noting that the UK Parliament has adjusted the time limit from 5 years to 20 years
and most recently to 15 years, we seriously question the justification of any time limit for both Westminster and European elections on the grounds that these “overseas”
voters have over time seen their connection with the UK diminish.
We asked though our online survey British overseas resident why they felt it important to vote in the UK Parliament elections and the results are as follows:
Why is it important for you to vote Percentage
I am a British citizen 93.90%
I have a vote and want to use it 53.63%
Issues decided in Westminster can affect me 87.15%
So I have a voice through my MP 68.15%
It helps maintain my links with the UK 61.45%
83.2% of the participants do not have a right to vote in the national elections of the
country of their residence.
A. tells us that ‘I have had an international career spanning 4 different EU countries
as well as UK. My professional (I am a solicitor of England and Wales) and personal
links to the UK remain very strong and I spend on average 2-3 months per year in
the UK for personal and professional reasons.
I have used my right of free movement under EU law to work in different EU
countries and find myself thereby deprived of my fundamental right to vote as a
B. added that ‘As a British subject (sole nationality) I must have the right to
participate in the decision of selecting the party/persons that I feel will better pursue the interests of my country. Having lived abroad a long time should not weaken this right as they do not in most (if not all) the other European countries.’
The fact that they often draw pensions and pay taxes in the UK is sufficient justification to argue that that connection is in practice maintained.
We agree with those proposing an amendment to the Electoral Registration and
Administration Bill in the House of Commons in June 2012 who argued that: “For a
democracy as ancient as ours, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is a stain on our democratic principles that our citizens are placed at such a disadvantage when they
have moved abroad compared with citizens from those other countries. Her Majesty’s Government is very happy to collect tax from most of the enormous number of people involved, but denies them the vote.”
The 15-year time limit has the anomalous effect of leaving many British nationals
resident in other EU member states unable to vote in any member state’s national
84.92% of our respondents support the abolition of the 15 year rule now. This
contradicts the notion of EU citizenship in the Treaties as well as the notion of “no
taxation without representation”.
C. tells us that ‘I am a retired police officer and therefore pay my taxes in the UK on
my police pension and therefore feel I should have a voice’.
Similarly D. tells us ‘I need and want, my democratic human right to be treated as an
equal with all other British nationals, who choose to remain in the UK, especially as I
have worked and paid all my taxes and NIC from the age of 16 to 60.5 years, and
now contribute to the Exchequer in the UK.’
The ‘no taxation without representation’ principle was also echoed by E. who says
that ‘As an EU civil servant, I am tax resident in the UK on my non-EU world-wide
income and yet I do not have the right to vote.’
It is evident from the responses to our survey that the concerned British overseas
residents feel it is of extreme importance that they fully participate in the UK political life via national elections. The current 15 year rule leaves them with no voting rights in any national elections unless they acquire the citizenship of the country they reside in.
Furthermore, they have little or no say in decisions made by the British Parliament
despite the impact it may have on their lives.
We take the view that a large proportion of overseas British voters will want to have
a say in the current future direction of the UK.
This can only be achieved if they have the right to vote. Overseas British citizens tell us that they are concerned with issues around tax, pensions, and healthcare and in
many ways they echo the concerns of British citizens living in the UK.
By supporting this Bill, you will send a positive message to the estimated 5 million
overseas citizens that:
They are not forgotten;
They are an integral part of our society; and
We value their contribution