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Britons overseas for more than 15 years to get UK voting rights

Voting rights: Britons who have lived overseas for more than 15 years are to set to be able to vote in elections in the United Kingdom

Britons who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will get the right to vote in British general elections after a legal change was passed in the House of Lords.

British citizens at present lose the right to vote if they have been abroad for more than 15 years.

New legislation will give them a “vote for life” in British elections, regardless of how long they have been living outside Britain.

It is believed that the move could affect three million British expatriates retired or working abroad who had been deprived of the right to vote.

The amendment is expected to come into force before Britain’s next scheduled General Election in 2024.

The relevant clauses in the elections Bill have now passed the committee stage in the House of Lords after amendments on the issue were debated but withdrawn.

The Bill will proceed to the report stage, where it is scrutinised for any legal loopholes, before returning to the House of Commons for a final vote.

Some peers objected to the change and claimed it was wrong that British nationals who left home decades ago could vote although they paid no taxes in the UK.

Paul Scriven, a Liberal Democrat peer, said: “How would that be perceived as fair and a good platform for our electoral process?

“People who have not lived here for 50 years will have the right to vote and influence government policy, even though it does not directly affect them.”

But a statement on the UK government website said: “British expatriates are also directly affected by decisions made in the UK Parliament — for example, on foreign policy, defence, immigration or pensions.

“It is, therefore, right that they have a voice in elections to that body. There is considerable demand for these reforms. Expats of all political stripes are keen to have their say on issues that affect them.

“Most British citizens overseas retain deep ties to the United Kingdom. Many still have family here, some will return here.

“Many will have a lifetime of hard work in the UK behind them and some will have fought for our country.”

The statement added: “Advances in technology have enabled high-speed global communications, allowing British citizens to follow domestic affairs in real time.”

The changes will also ensure that people who leave Britain before they turned 18 will no longer have to rely on the registration status of parents or guardians to qualify for the vote.

Registration applications will also only have to be renewed every three years, rather than annually.

The change marked a victory for a veteran British campaigner who has complained about the present law from his home in Italy for almost two decades.

Harry Shindler, 100, said: “This is an historic moment and Britons all over the world will be celebrating.”

“I’ve been campaigning for this for the last 18 years, and, although it has to go back to the House of Commons, it’s now as good as a done deed.

“I am delighted and pleased this is nearly over. We are a democracy, but not a complete democracy while we didn’t have the right to vote.”

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Published April 02, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated April 02, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Britons overseas for more than 15 years to get UK voting rights

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