MORE than three million British expats have regained their right to vote in UK General Elections and referendums following the implementation of the Elections Act 2022.
This represents the biggest increase in the British electorate since the introduction of full female suffrage in 1928.
As of Tuesday January 16, 2024, the 15-year limit on voting rights will be scrapped and British citizens worldwide will be able to register to vote online regardless of how long they have been overseas.
But for many Brits in Spain and Europe, the change is seven years too late, after being forbidden from voting in the Brexit referendum back in 2016.
Many expats on the continent believe their votes could have swung the poll in favour of Remain.
Sue Wilson MBE, who is chair of the Bremain in Spain campaign group, told the Olive Press tonight: “After years of campaigning against the 15-year rule, the reinstatement of our democratic voting rights is long overdue and most welcome.
“The British government have failed Britons abroad time and again, and have repeatedly broken their manifesto promises, but finally our struggle is at an end. No longer will decisions affecting all our lives, regardless of where we call home, be made without us having our say.”
She added: “Now the task of ensuring that Brits abroad understand the registration process and get themselves on the electoral register begins.
“A general election could be closer than we think, so there’s no time to waste. I’m only sorry that veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler OBE, who inspired so many of us to join this fight, did not live long enough to cast his vote one last time.”
Under the new rules, British expats’ right to vote will be linked to the last UK address they were either registered to vote at or lived at.
Upon registration, they will now remain on the electoral roll for up to three years. After registration, electors will also be able to apply online
for either a postal or proxy vote.
The change comes months before current PM Rishi Sunak is expected to the head to the polls. While a date has not yet been set, a general election will take place in 2024.
Commenting, Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP said: “From today, millions of British nationals across the world can exercise their right to vote in future General Elections and have their say in the way their country should be governed.
“The Conservatives have once again shown that we are the party for democracy and protecting an individual’s right to vote.”
Heather Harper MBE, Chairman of Conservatives Abroad, which led the campaign to restore the franchise, said: “Millions of people living abroad, both working and retired have been prevented from exercising their democratic right to vote.
“This new measure puts Britain back on a par with democracies such as the USA, France, Italy and New Zealand in recognising the importance of their citizens worldwide.”