22 Feb, 2015 @ 12:00
2 mins read

Voteless yet taxed: A call-to-arms for disenfranchised British expats in Spain

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THE main political parties in the UK are currently all campaigning for one united cause.

They want eligible British expats around the world to register to vote in the general election on May 7.

But many – such as army veteran Harry Schindler, aged 94 and living in Italy – are simply not allowed.

There has been a lot written already this year about the Treaty of Maastrict, 1992, enforcing the right of EU citizens to work and live in any member state.

Most of them can vote in the general elections of their country of origin for the remainder of their lives. Not the British though.

Brits who are resident outside the UK for more than 15 years – and do not retain a UK registered address (which requires being physically resident in Britain for a minimum of 183 days) – subsequently lose their right to vote.

And so it is that a War World II veteran like Harry Schindler can be left without a say in the elections of the country he actually fought and risked his life for.

Schindler has however gained vital publicity with his attempt to regain that vote, taking his case to the UK Supreme Court and then even higher to the European Court of Human Rights.

For legal reasons he has not succeeded, but he has gained the support of the main UK political parties… well, technically, the support of those parties’ expat organisations.

For, as it turns out, most Labour and some Liberal Democrat MPs are, oddly, still resisting any alteration to the outdated 15-year rule.

Perhaps thinking a change to the law would not suit them, they are ignoring a Europe in Movement meeting, in Paris, in 2008, that accepted the principle that ‘no citizens of the EU shall be deprived of their right to vote in national elections by reason of their place of residence’.

So we find ourselves in the odd position, where parties that supposedly support European democratic ideals are ignoring certain aspects of them.

It also means the irony of Nick Clegg’s Spanish wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez being allowed to vote in Spanish general elections for the rest of her life, while Dutch, French and German citizens can vote in their General Elections wherever they live.

Meanwhile, under the Double Taxation Agreement between the UK and Spain, most ex-UK public sector employees living in Spain and receiving government service pensions have the tax paid in the UK. They have no choice about that, but are still debarred from voting in Spanish general elections and, after 15 years, the UK equivalent.

They are taxed but disenfranchised, a situation which sounds uncannily similar to that which led to the Boston Tea Party attack in 1711, which triggered the entire American revolution for independence.

This disenfranchisement of British citizens resident in Spain coupled with the enforcement of their taxes to be paid in Britain is nothing short of appalling.

And the issue will not be resolved until British politicians who support the principles of the EU start supporting them in practice and stop playing party politics.

Perhaps many Labour MPs imagine Brits in Spain are Tory supporters who spend their hours sitting on the terraces of their large villas sipping Rioja.

The possibility that those retired to Spain, unable to vote in the UK and continuing to be taxed there, might behave and think differently probably doesn’t enter mindsets in the ‘Westminster bubble’.

Perhaps it is time to re-enact the Boston Tea Party, waylaying a lorry laden with Rioja wines en route to Britain and distributing the bottles to Podemos party supporters. That might stir the sediment in Westminster.

But what matters at present, irrespective of the 15-year rule issue and partisan politics, is that those Brits in Spain who are eligible to vote, do so. All that is needed is a computer and an internet connection, it takes just five minutes:

Visit: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or in Northern Ireland visit: www.eoni.org.uk

Staff Reporter

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  1. No taxation without representation – snap. I think I am right in saying that the only member country of the EU without full PR is the UK. So, even with the vote it’s a waste of time and effort if you don’t vote for the Nasty Party or the Pink Tories – anyone for real democracy?

  2. I have on behalf of the Campaign for votes “www.votes-for-expat-brits-com” written to the HQs of all Parties THREE TIMES in the last three weeks asking for them to make a statement on their policy towards expatriates. The Conservatives replied immediately – The UKIP belatedly – the others are silent. Below is the preamble to the third request sent to the idle lot of Labour, Lib-Dem. and the Greens. To join the circulation list send to “lefourquet@gmail.com”
    What on earth is wrong with them? They are an utter disgrace. I shall circulate the two replies (more I hope) before 7th March.

    This is the third time of requesting a message from your Party
    Reasons why Citizens Abroad should be concerned about the performance of the British Government and why they should vote.
    First – Why do they not register to vote?
    Because few politicians take any interest in them and they see no point in voting for politicians who apparently couldn’t care a damn for them.
    Second Why they should have the vote and use it. Three reasons – Social, Cultural and Financial.
    1. They all have relatives in Britain.. Children, Brothers, Sisters, Parents, Uncles, Aunts, and also many Friends. They communicate with them frequently. Their views will influence the political scene in the UK. They may well return to the UK to live in later years. The development of society and its systems and welfare in the UK is of great concern to them.
    2. They are as much aware of the British activities on the World Stage as any who reside in the UK. Culturally they are ingrained with British culture and are inherently Ambassadors for Britain , whether they are truly conscious of it or not! Many actively are pursuing careers which exist to promote the British economy. In Europe most listen to the TV and radio broadcasts from the BBC, Sky and ITN every day as though they resided in the UK.
    3. Large numbers are totally dependent on the UK for their income. Many are intimately dependent on the UK for their social security support – directly or via treaty arrangements.
    In all the above matters the Citizen Abroad is never consulted by the political system in Westminster and Whitehall. This is an appalling disregard of the principles of Democracy.

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