Queen's Speech: 11 May 2021
British in Europe statement in response to the Queen’s Speech which includes a provision to restore votes for life to overseas UK citizens:
‘We fully support modernising the UK voting system, which is a hot mess of contradiction and inconsistency. In principle, measures that expand the franchise to include UK citizens or residents of voting age are long overdue and welcome.
The UK’s 4.3 milllion overseas nationals have a huge and unique contribution to make. We live all around the world, many of us in global centres of power. If the Government is serious about its Global Britain agenda, it should be forging links with its overseas nationals as a key form of soft power.
Restoring our votes for life would be the first step towards recognising the pivotal role that we can play.
Furthermore, what happens in the UK affects us. 80% of the 1.2 million British nationals in continental Europe are working age or younger. Many of us pay or have paid taxes and national insurance in the UK, meaning tax and pension changes affect us. Many of us have strong ties to our families and communities in the UK or children studying there. So, we are affected by changes in law and policy on social care, education and university fees and finance. Moreover, rule changes in recent years have made it increasingly difficult for us to return to the UK to care for sick or elderly parents if our spouse or partner is non-British.
The biggest changes in policy came out of the 2016 EU Referendum, which caused huge disruption to people’s lives, jobs and families, and the three General Elections from 2015-2019. Yet 60% of us did not have a vote on our own future, or the removal of the rights on which we had built our lives.
The question of who gets to vote goes to the heart of the relationship between a citizen and the state. In a democracy, a government should not make changes to laws and policies that affect people’s fundamental rights without giving them a say. In this respect, the UK is out of step with the vast majority of other countries including the US and the majority of European countries. France and Italy even have constituencies with dedicated MPs for their overseas nationals.
However, as supporters of expanding the franchise we have huge concerns about the purported content of the Electoral Integrity Bill, which contains measures that appear to be designed to make it harder for certain groups of the UK population to vote.
Getting our vote back matters hugely: but not at the price of other people’s ability to vote at all.'
For history and background on Votes for Life and overseas UK nationals please click here.
For more information about the Queen's Speech, the Electoral Integrity Bill and restoring votes for life to overseas UK nationals please scroll to page 141 of the full background notes.
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