23 Feb, 2013 @ 09:00
1 min read

Expat mother fights for Britons’ right to vote

jaqui cotterill e

A COSTA Blanca mother will demand that British expats get full voting rights at the European Parliament.

The mother of four, Jacqui Cotterill, from the Marina Alta village of Parcent, Valencia, will make her speech to the Euopean Union in Brussels on Tuesday.

Cotterill wants Britons who have chosen to take advantage of the EU’s freedom of movement law to still be entitled to vote in the UK elections.

Her speech is one of several to be made as part of a day’s hearing called, ‘Making the Most of EU Citizenship’, addressing the practicalities of residing in another EU country.

Cotterill, who has not been able to vote in the UK for 8 years, said she believes it is wrong that expats have no right to vote in the UK once they have been out of the country for 15 years.

“My petition is calling for the 15-year rule to be scrapped so those who want to vote in the UK can do so,” she said.

“People have homes there, pay council tax there or have pensions and are paying other taxes and want the 15 year rule scrapped.”

She also disagrees with expats being denied the right to vote in Spain apart from in municipal and European elections.

“Younger people working and paying taxes here and making investments into a future here should be allowed to vote in the country where they are legally resident,” she added.

“We have chosen to live in the EU and should have a voice.”

Ms Cotterill is now the Deputy Mayor of Parcent after joining the Democratic Coalition of Parcent party in 2006.

Talking about the day she said: “We need to make sure next Tuesday is not just a talking shop and some real action follows.”

The Olive Press recently reported on a petition to have an MP for expats in the UK Parliament.

See the full story here: https://theolivepress.es/spain-news/2013/01/11/an-mp-for-expats/


  1. The French have two parliamentary MPs who represent only those who live abroad. The H.M. Brits drop us like a patata caliente.
    Mind you, it would be useful to have Euro MPs who follow the French idea and represent those Europeans who live in other countries than their own.

  2. P.M. Why are you paying taxes in Spain and UK if you are living in Spain. You can claim the UK tax back. Indeed, the first time I claimed it back my tax code was changed to NT i.e. non-taxable. Still get bank interest refunded. Just have to clain it with form P85

  3. @ Tommie jones

    We may have left the UK but we haven’t stopped being British and many of us continue to pay UK taxes as well as our taxes on property in Spain plus the actions of the UK government can have an effect on our lives here and elsewhere in the world. One of the most striking of these is David Cameron’s decision to call an in out referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU, if the answer is to leave god alone knows what that will mean for ex pats living in the EU. I say god alone knows because I can assure no UK politician is able to tell us. Finally a lot of us left the UK because of the way of life in the UK was being destroyed again by politicians. I have started a petition calling for representation for ex pats no matter where they live in the world, the French and Italians have such representation and I don’t think it unreasonable that British ex pats should have similar rights.


  4. Hello Jacqui, my name is Justin Harper and I am a freelance journalist based in Singapore. I regularly write for the Daily Telegraph’s Expat Money section. I was keen to cover your speech at the European Parliament ans ask you a couple f questions about your campaign. Thanks Justin
    ([email protected])

  5. PM

    What UK Pension are you talking about ? State Pension is not taxed at source and private pensions are paid free of UK tax, if you have done the right paperwork.

  6. Why Bother Voting?
    Nothing will change, vote for a party run by Toffee nose
    Public Schoolboys who think most of the population are
    uneducated riff raff or the pointless Lib Dum PC brigade
    that could not run a bath let along a country!
    Or even worse a Labour Party run by middle class champange socialists who have never done a days graft in their lives telling you it was not their fault they screwed the economy up while flooding the country with a tsunami of non skilled immigrants.
    Na dont waste your time.

  7. Back on the 15 January I e mailed the Prime Minister about his proposed referendum and the effect on ex pats should Britain leave the EU. I have just received a reply from the “Future of Europe Department” at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is clear from their final paragraph (which I reproduce below)the British government has no intention of protecting ex pats interests if Britain leaves the EU. If nothing else this should act as a big wake up call to fight for your rights you do have them.

    “You asked about your status as British citizens in Spain. Whether or not one is an EU citizen, one’s status in Spain would be governed by the law of that country, as each member of the EU is a sovereign state. That law must be in conformity with EU law, but it is up to all members of the EU, as sovereign states, how exactly they implement and apply EU law. It is not uncommon for some variation in implementation to exist between member states. The authorities in Spain responsible for immigration may have more relevant, useful and practical information with which to advise you on this question”

    There it is don’t let apathy decide your future.

  8. We agree with you Peter and, in refusing to let apathy decide our future, we are also petitioning the European Parliament from the British expat community in France on this issue of voting rights for EU citizens, particularly in the case of a future referendum on UK membership of the EU.

  9. A group of us in France with contacts across Europe are campaigning for the vote and Representation. This grew out of the work of Rod Harper (see above) and the British Community in France.
    If any of you (and Jacqui Cotterill) would like updates and know more about what we are doing, contact me at [email protected] and leave your email address.
    We have tried hard to push the petition begun through Peter Johnson on the Olive Press – but it is hard work.

  10. Rod Harper and Brian Cave thank you for your ongoing support, according to recent figures there are 400 thousand British ex pats residing in Spain, if only a quarter of those signed the petition we would have our 100k signatures that would trigger a debate in the House of Commons not mention the many thousands elsewhere in the EU and beyond.

  11. Being deprived of a vote in national elections because you have lived abroad for 15 years is undoubtedly wrong. But shouldn’t expats, moreover immigrants like myself, be concentrating our efforts on persuading the governement of our new home to give us voting rights? After 15 years living and paying taxes abroad I want a say in the government here. Most Spanish people would accept that as perfectly reasonable.

  12. @ Simon Pynches ” Most Spanish people would accept that as perfectly reasonable.”

    I wish I could share your optimism, most Spanish I meet are very welcoming and would help me if I needed it, but having a say in the running of Spain outside of local elections, I don’t think so. It will be interesting to see the Spanish governments attitude to ex pats should Britain leave the EU, as I have already posted above the British governments approach seems to be you will be on your own.

  13. I have great sympathy with Simon’s viewpoint above. The position is confused by the unique political structure of Europe. This unique situation should be reflected in the democratic representation of the individual. It isn’t! So we need to push for reform.
    There are millions of nationals across Europe living in countries of which they are not nationals – Poles and French in London. Brits in Spain and France etc etc. They are closely bound to the State of their Residence (where they have no political Representation). They are also closely bound to their Nation State – the older they are, normally the more tight is that bond. (Most Europeans – not Brits- have political Representation in their home State – but I repeat NOT in the State of Residence!) ALL Europeans -including Britons can only live freely in the States of Europe because of the treaties of Europe. Brits live in Spain because of such treaties between BRITAIN and EUROPE (NOT SPAIN) IF BRITAIN PULLED OUT OF EUROPE (as Farage, and the Mail would wish) it would be a disaster for huge numbers of British people living in Europe.
    The way forward?
    1. To get political Representation in the State of Residence one must pressure the EU Commission/Parliament.
    It is a Europe-wide problem!
    2. To ensure that the Freedom of movement in Europe for British Nationals is maintained, AND to ensure that the interests of British Nationals in Europe is hammered home we need Representation in Westminster. That voice should also resound in Brussels. It has to be loud and clear.
    BOTH Political Representations are necessary – across Europe! Europe has to develop as a network of nations – Remember the nation is the living people not a land-mass.
    British people across Europe should demand that their voice is heard in Westminster and in their State of Residence and in Brussels. I urge Britons to sign up to the following petition, begun by Peter Johnson on this site. Our future in Europe depends on this action!

  14. The anti-EU faction in the UK given voice in the media by Nigel Farage, MEP and leader of UKIP, is gaining support from those concerned about uncontrolled immigration & particularly the free movement of EU citizens (the focus is currently on Bulgarians & Romanians),taking lower-paid jobs and flooding services during an economic downturn.
    Taken together with the fact that the French, Spanish, Italians etc already have expat voting rights for their own citizens(with no time limit), and the very negative image the UK has generated for itself within the EU,it would seem better for Britsh expats to continue to put pressure on their own country for representation, rather than relying on other EU nations to solve this British problem eg by giving expat Brits the vote as EU citizen residents(say after 15 years).
    Peter’s petition needs more support.
    Rod Harper

  15. Lobbying the British Government may well succeed – there seems little logic in the present arbitary arrangements. My point is that I would like to be represented in my country of residence. The place where I have decided to live, run a business and start a family. That to me, does have sound logic and should be used as the argument of persuasion with the powers that be. I agree with Brian, this is a European matter. We have been granted freedom of movement, therefore it is wrong to deprive us of representation as a result. One should not have to apply for citizenship to achieve this.
    Most of the reoccuring problems that expats face in Spain would have a better chance of being heard and solved through representation at a national level.

  16. Over the coming weeks I propose sending my link to as many MP’s as possible, this will take some time but I’m hoping that by raising awareness among those who actually govern us more progress will be made. When it comes to an actual referendum we potentially have a very big voice and our votes are more than capable of making a difference to the outcome.

  17. Peter – Excellent – Our team (France, Brussels, Denmark, etc., does not at the moment send you updates, unless you are on a mailing list unknown to me] – would you care to inform me of your email address so you can send you material in a non-public manner? write [email protected]

  18. Simon,
    In the longer term, given the free movement to live and work granted to EU citizens within the EU, I agree with your point that “I would like to be represented in my country of residence. The place where I have decided to live, run a business and start a family” and that “one should not have to apply for citizenship to achieve this”.
    In the shorter term I believe we need to address our own government for better representation in line with our EU peers.

  19. Rodney, that is a very valid point. Given what I’ve read about moves in both Houses of Parliament there would seem a good chance of success in changing UK legislation. After all, I cannot see the political motive behind limiting voting rights to fifteen years.
    Representation in the UK is far better than no representation at all. My worry is that one is achieved to the detriment of the other. British expats are often accused of being insular and failing to integrate into their adopted culture. Focusing the attention on changing UK legislation could be seen as another example of just that – being more concerned about what happens “at home” rather than where we actually live. The reality is we can’t have both, a vote in the UK and Spain. Once that 15 year limit has been extended to 25 years, 50 years or a lifetime, the incentive and motivation to swap that for a vote in Spain will only be reduced.

  20. The EU is unique- For the reason I detailed before I believe that nationals in Europe should have dual Representation- where they live and in their National State. Those people with dual nationality already often (not always) have dual Representation of some sort. The uniqueness of Europe should make us think differently about how we are responsible citizens.
    Now it is urgent that we wake up the British Government to our existence.

  21. Simon, with dual representation for EU citizens as outlined by Brian there would then seem to be no need to swap as in your case a voting right in the UK for a vote in Spain where you have committed your future. However, I think such an ideal scenario within a future EU(state?)would have to be based on reciprocal & equivalent national voting rights within each member nation for their expat citizens. Unfortunately, the UK stands out as rather an exception with its 15-year-limit (along with Ireland which deprives its expat citizens of any right to vote once they leave its shores).

  22. I believe that once you decide to leave, abandon or however you want to look at it, you lose your rights to vote in your home country or anywhere where your vote would have a effect on aspects of life in that country. It is a little like ‘wanting your cake and eat it’ As regards the argument about paying taxes in the UK, if you are legally living in Spain. You have the obligation of paying all your taxes here.

    It is incredible how we say we love Britain, yet we happily left the place. Weather has no place in this discussion. You are either a resident in one or the other. I do believe that we should have the right to vote in The Spanish national and european election.

  23. Myra,
    (correction to previous comment)
    If you are only a resident in Spain, why do you believe that you should have the right to vote not only in the Spanish local and European elections but also Spanish national elections? If you are not a Spanish citizen, is it because you pay all your taxes in Spain that you should have this full right to vote?
    The Spanish extend this national right to vote to their own expatriate citizens and so probably would not agree with you.
    This is why we think that the right to vote should be tied to nationality.

  24. Myra — Large numbers of pensioner expatriates have to pay taxes to the UK BY LAW. All those who have worked in the public service – Teachers- Military staff – Local Authority staff – Police – Fire_service.
    But British-ness is no a matter of money, taxes, investments. Neither is it a matter of residence. It is also a matter of spirit. Britain operates on a World Stage. Its political activities are worldwide.
    Should not all Britons have a view on how Britain is viewed and acts on this world stage? [And indeed at home, for our sake and our relatives.] Do not the Spanish citizens see in how the British expatriate behaves the way of life of Britons? It seems justifiable to ensure that the British Government accountable to all British Citizens for its behaviour.

  25. It was just a few strokes of a pen that made possible the free movement of people and labour within the E.U. A few more strokes would make ones vote mobile. In other words, your vote should move with your body inside Europe. The place you live, work, spend, and pay your dues, is the place you should have a right to vote in. This is a job for the European parliament, not Westminster. It would be better if all of us thought of ourselves as European, rather than clinging to narrow ideas of nationality, which breeds racism, prejudice, and in certain cases, mistaken ideas of superiority.

  26. Stefanjo,
    Agree that the logical extension of the right to freedom of movement of EU citizens within the EU is that “The place (within the EU) you live, work, spend, and pay your dues, is the place you should have a right to vote in”.
    As in practice it would take more than just “a few strokes of a pen” to negotiate an underlying agreement for such a mobile vote between EU member states,we still have to press our expatriate case with Westminster for what remains essentially a British (and eg Irish) problem within the EU, France, Spain, Italy etc already extending voting rights to their own expats.
    This reliance on our British nationality to press our case reflects more our pragmatism than any “narrow ideas of nationality”.

  27. Stefanjo – I am 100% sympathetic with your view- I also agree with Rod Harper.
    Such a position NEEDS a treaty arrangement within Europe. Britain’s Government is not likely to agree readily to votes in the UK for the French/Spanish/Polish etc etc immigrants. Eventually such an arrangement as you suggest needs to come about.
    Moreover there must be changes at least to financial rules and laws. When all one’s income is derived from the UK and one pays taxes there, one needs to be some accountability. Cross border transactions are hampered by intransigent UK banking and investment rules contrary to the spirit of EU freedom of capital, There is a hell of a lot of things to put right before we can get to the full freedom of movement, persons, capital, services, goods fundamental to Europe. The British Government has to play a large role in getting this done and British citizens have to be able to put pressure on the British Government to achieve this. If there is no Representation of those citizens to the British Government then that pressure barely exists.
    France/Spain/Italy are all ahead in this.
    But to repeat my earlier major point – Within and beyond Europe many wish to be proud to ‘be British’. Many citizens are fed up with Britain but YET do not not renounce their citizenship and become Spanish/French etc. [sometimes it is not possible e.g, Danish) And if you move from country to country within Europe one still would remain British. That link is always likely to stick and many want it to be strong. It all points [In Europe] to some form of representation both for one’s Nationality AND for the Country of Residence.

  28. Rod: Brian: Understand your arguments about the bureaucratic hurdles. But most of them can be traced to the remarks I made, about racism, prejudice and ideas of superiority. TWO votes will be ten times easier to win than one person, one vote. Little England is unlikely to agree to expats having their cake and eating it. Don’t forget the resentment, (jealousy) that U.K. residents have to those who have “abandoned” their Motherland.

  29. There are two issues here really but both based on the fundamental right to vote.

    The most important is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 25 of that treaty includes the right to vote for every citizen. We, as British citizens, should have the right to vote. Provided we have the right to support from the British consulate where we live, we are British citizens. That would apply globally.

    However, here in Europe we could also argue for the right to vote in national elections where we live and pay taxes. There is currently an ECI which is gathering a lot of support from both inside the EP (several blocks and MEPs are in favour) and outside the European parliament and it could be successful if they continue to gain support at the current rate. See http://www.letmevote.eu/en/

  30. We’ve posted a link in support of your “www.letmevote.eu/en/” campaign at the European level, on our own British expat voting rights website blog here below:

  31. Thank you for doing that it is most helpful.

    I have been advised by an HR lawyer in US to write to the Secretary of State for Justice to ask where a British citizen who has lived outside of the United Kingdom for over 15 years should now exercise their Right to Vote in national elections.

    Please write to your local Consulate/Embassy and ask about your local voting rights. There will be a representation made on all British expats behalf with the Human Rights Council UN at the next opportunity. The right of movement within the EU has encouraged the erosion of the right to vote.

    It would also be worthwhile lobbying British political parties as the indications are that several individual politicians are sympathetic and supportive. However, we will need this included in manifestos before the next election in 2015 before promises can be turned into action.

  32. Thank you for the feedback,MikeL.

    Harry Shindler quite a media favourite and who has been campaigning for his right to vote for many years, has recently lost the case he brought to the European Court of Human Rights(ECHR)but intends to appeal the ruling. If his appeal fails he intends to take his case to the Human Rights Council of the UN, as you suggest.

    On the Westminster scene we have already had some success through one of our major supporters Lord Lexden, in pushing for an all-party inquiry on British expatriate voting rights.

    Rod Harper


    At last British Expat voters and would be voters have something to celebrate as they begin to see some light at end of the tunnel. For the last few years many of them – particularly in Europe – have been campaigning and fighting for electoral reform, and for the restoration of their voting rights, with little effect.

    But now at last there seems to be movement and some extremely welcome developments, possibly even momentum! Recent articles in the UK press (Daily Telegraph, Express, Independent) have highlighted the fact that there are at least five million missing UK voters, world-wide – Voters whose votes could be vital in the upcoming 2015 General Election in the UK. At the same time the articles also heralded news of some much needed electoral reforms which British expat voters will find extremely welcome.

    Under pressure from MPs, the Electoral Commission, over-seen by a cross-party committee chaired by the Commons Speaker John Bercow has now been forced to include expats. Reforms about to be implemented include that by summer 2014 expat voters will be able to register online, removing the unnecessarily complicated, and completely inefficient present system of registering and re-registering every year. In addition they are proposing changes, such as extending the timetable for elections in order to allow overseas voters more time to vote by post. And on top of that the Electoral Commission, now alerted to the ”Foreign Legion of missing voters”– are looking at ways to reach these missing voters, and is planning an awareness campaign to recruit the registration of overseas expats and will focus on the ten countries with the largest expatriate audience – France and Spain, with a very large British expat presence, are two countries that will be targeted.

    These two reforms are much welcomed – for example the previous postal voting system, made it nearly impossible for voters to get their ballots in in time – from 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, backed up by a presumably efficient army postal system only just over 500 ballots were received!

    But expat voters – who have had their voting rights removed, for the arbitrary and totally unjustifiable ruling that those who have been out of the UK for 15 years, lose their right to vote – want more, much more – they want that ruling to be reversed, and they want their votes back.

    As one, a pensioner in the Var said “”I don’t want to be a party pooper, or rain on anybody’s parade, particularly that of expats eligible to vote – but what about me? I, like possibly a couple of million expats have had my right to vote taken away, under the 15 year rule, for quite unjustifiable reasons. We want to join the voting party too, we are citizens, we pay taxes, we paid into all the UK systems, but we have no representation.””

    Many also criticise the system whereby they should have to vote in their previous constituency, a constituency with which they no longer have a connection, and an MP who cannot effectively represent them.

    In the building/planning fiasco in Spain several hundred expats fell foul, some had their homes bulldozed, or as more recently in the recent Cyprus banking crisis, where many expats dependents of the Army post there lost investments, their only remedy was to appeal to their former individual UK constituency MP, MPs who would not have had any knowledge of circumstances, or relevant laws, whatever. MPs up and down the UK cannot be expected to cope with such problems for one or two at most of their individual constituents, and in fact it is a total waste of time for them to try to do so.

    However a specific representative assigned to either region could have done so, and far more efficiently at much less cost, and represented them at the EU.

    British expats all saw how amazingly the French bureaucracy swept into action, at their last general election, providing the now at least over 400,000 of French citizens living and working in the UK a vote, and REPRESENTATION in their national Parliament. And they now say “”Why can’t we expats have the same?””

    British Expats worldwide are increasingly fed up with a system that taxes them, but does not represent them! One has only to read the expats website “www.votes-for-expat-brits.com” and read comments from Kenya, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, etc. to feel the overwhelming sense of frustration and betrayal. They can pay, they can support, they are, as the huge majority of British expats are, totally loyal, Brits through and through with certain ideals and values stamped through them like Brighton Rock, which they take wherever they go, but up until now they have got short shrift from some politicians, particularly from those that think expats will vote against them – and who in the past year have voiced rooted and unreasonable objections to granting votes to expats – so much for one man one vote principle.

    “”Other democratic countries have no problem in giving their citizens the vote””, they say, “”where is the difficulty?””

    However as political parties in the UK start to grind up the gears for the upcoming 2015 election, perhaps there is hope as both major parties realise they should be shopping for, and supporting expats. Conservative support is plummeting, and Labour, having over the years voiced rooted, and bigoted objections to expat votes, will have a hard struggle to make an impact.

    UK Expats world-wide will welcome the reforms by the Electoral Commission, and the Speakers Committee, championed by MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown – but they may well be saying like Oliver Twist: “”Please sir, can I have More? Can I have my vote back? Please Sir, Ma’am, can we too join the Voting Party 2015?””

    Note: Lib Dems, under Nick Clegg, are violently opposed to granting expats the right to vote, despite the supreme irony that Mr Clegg’s Spanish wife, retains a lifelong right to vote in her native Spain. His stance alone might well ensure that no UK expat in their right minds would vote Lib Dem.

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