THE British government has announced that it is changing the law to give British expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years the right to vote.
As well as removing the time limit on the right to vote for UK citizens living abroad, the government intends to enfranchise any expats who were previously resident or registered to vote in the UK.
Currently only British citizens who registered to vote before leaving the UK may apply to become overseas electors.
The changes will mean millions of hitherto disenfranchised expats becoming eligible to vote in UK parliamentary elections.
The government published the policy statement “A democracy that works for everyone: British citizens overseas” in October 2016, asking for views on its plans to introduce votes for life.
Its response to the consultation has been published on GOV.UK ahead of the second reading of the Overseas Electors Bill, tabled by Glyn Davies MP, on February 23.
Chloe Smith, Britain’s Constitution Minister, said:
“Participation in our democracy is a fundamental part of being British, no matter how far you have travelled from the UK.
“It is right that we should remove the 15 year time limit on voting rights of British citizens living overseas and allow those who previously lived in the UK the chance to participate in our democracy,” she said.
“Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have a family here and indeed they may plan to return here in the future.”
The announcement follows a commitment to extend voting rights made by the Conservative party in their election manifesto.