A RETORT often given to such an idea is 'I can’t be bothered – what use is a vote to me? I don’t live in the UK and if anything I want to vote where I live', writes Brian Cave.
May be so, but the spectrum of expatriate Brits is enormous. At one end you can have the single person aged 30 who intends to live the rest of their life in France.
And at the other end the retired chap of 80 whose whole income via pensions and savings comes from the UK, whose social security support and health care is paid for by the UK under EU regulations and who has family in the UK.
The lack of concern by one should not preclude the interests of the other. After all, no one is obliged to exercise a right to vote.
Within Europe a British citizen can move freely. So the young 30-year-old may earn a living in France for five years, then move to Spain for five years and finally marry an Italian and go to live in Germany.
It happens that every British citizen is affected by British laws, simply by being British. Every international treaty is signed on our behalf. If Britain pulled out of the EU then it would impinge on every British citizen. Such an action could spell problems for the 54,000 retired Brits living in France and the 450,000 in Europe.
The vote, you should understand, is a mere mechanical process. What is needed is representation in the British Parliament of the needs and concerns of every British expatriate – little or great as it may be.
Over the past decade the right for expatriates to vote has been limited to an arbitrary set of years from leaving the UK shores. It has ranged from zero to five to 20 and back to 15 years, where it is now.
Only one country in Europe, Ireland, totally avoids the representation of their citizens within the EU. Denmark is limited. France and Italy have MPs who have constituencies abroad. French people can vote in London for the French Assembly.
Two citizens have challenged the situation in the courts. Harry Shindler, who is aged 90 but as vibrant as a 60-year-old, in Italy who has a case before the European Court of Justice, and James Prestonm, much younger and who runs a business in Spain. His case is before the High Court in London and running under appeal.
Recently the matter was debated as a corollary to another issue in the House of Lords. One Peer, Lord Lexden, spoke up magnificently on behalf of the British expatriate.
A whole group of activists across the world is pressing the case hard. To find out more, and join in with your support go to www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
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and would this be a bit of an open door excuse for HMRC to extend its tentacles ?
Posted by: Sceptical | 18 January 2012 at 10:09
I somehow think the HMRC don't need this legislation to go through to keep an eye on things!!!
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 21 January 2012 at 18:51