New measures announced in the Queen’s Speech will make it easier for British citizens who have moved abroad to participate in British democracy.
Decisions made in the UK Parliament on foreign policy, defence, immigration, pensions and trade deals affect British citizens who live overseas. It is therefore right that they have a say in UK Parliamentary General Elections.
Today the British government is setting out further detail on plans to scrap the arbitrary rule that prevents British citizens from voting in General Elections if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.
The changes, which will form part of the Elections Bill, will also include measures to enable overseas electors to stay registered to vote for longer, with an absent voting arrangement in place.
British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, said: ‘In an increasingly connected world, most British citizens living in Spain retain deep ties to the United Kingdom. Many still have family there, worked there for many years, and some have even fought for our country. They deserve to have their voices heard in Parliament, no matter where they live, and I am delighted that UK Nationals living in Spain will now be able to participate in our democracy.’
The proposals fulfil a manifesto commitment to deliver ‘votes for life’, extending the voting franchise for UK Parliamentary General Elections to all British citizens living overseas who have been previously registered or previously resident in the UK. These changes will come into effect in time for the next scheduled General Election in 2024.
In addition, new rules will mean overseas electors can stay registered for longer, including with an absent voting arrangement in place, requiring them to renew their registration details once every three years, rather than annually.
Electors will be able to re-apply 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 overseas electors have appropriate voting arrangements in place ahead of an election.
Further announcements will be made on measures ahead of the Elections Bill‘s introduction to Parliament.
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. For further information visit: gov.uk/livinginspain.