Reclaiming Our Vote
Reclaiming our votes: British in Europe starts work on the final steps to restoring voting rights for disenfranchised UK citizens overseas
Currently, an estimated 3.4 million UK citizens living overseas are disenfranchised and, in 2016, more than 60% of UK citizens living in the EU had no vote in the UK EU referendum that led to the removal of our EU citizenship rights and changed our lives forever.
British in Europe campaigned for five years to protect our EU citizenship rights - and to reinstate lifelong voting rights in the UK. This was successful, and the Elections Act 2022 restored lifelong voting rights for UK citizens living overseas, but needs to be implemented.
British in Europe is now pleased to announce that we have secured funding for 12 months from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to support our campaign to ensure that the secondary implementing legislation is delivered and that it works - so that we can reclaim our voting rights and be registered as voters in time for the next general election. Once that is done, we plan a further phase of work to raise awareness across the UK diaspora and encourage the registration of these new UK citizen voters.
This is a discrete advocacy project run under the umbrella of British in Europe. The work will be led by the BiE co-chairs, Jane Golding and Fiona Godfrey supported by advocates from national groups. BiE’s previous work on the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) will not be reactivated through the project.
The Elections Act and its implementing legislation present a once in a generation opportunity to restore a fundamental civil right of a 21st century democracy, bringing the UK in line with European neighbours and other modern democracies on voting rights. At a time when the values and functioning of western democracies are being challenged from within and without, BiE is pleased to be contributing to the rebuilding of democracy in the UK. The project runs from 1 November 2022 - 31 October 2023.
Background: The right to vote in parliamentary elections in the UK was first given back to overseas citizens in 1985 and extended to 20 years in 1989, but was then reduced to 15 years by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
British in Europe: British in Europe, which is registered as a French association (association loi 1901), was set up as a coalition of UK citizens’ groups across the EEA and Switzerland post the 2016 UK EU Referendum. BiE decided to wind down its Withdrawal Agreement activities after 5 years in February 2022 due to lack of funding, but the French association was not wound up as some work and funding discussions were still ongoing. For more information on BiE and regular updates on the project see www.britishineurope.org.
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