THE Tories may come to regret re-enfranchising 2.3 million British expats living abroad after experts predicted they would vote against Rishi Sunak’s government en masse.
The current government removed the previous 15-year cut off limit for overseas citizens to be eligible to vote in UK elections for British on January 16.
The move represents the biggest increase in the British electoral franchise since the introduction of full female suffrage in 1928.
And despite making it a key campaign pledge in their election manifesto in 2019, it could be a decision that comes back to bite the Tories in a painful place.
Brits living abroad have been the hardest hit by the country’s fateful decision to leave the European Union in 2016.
Despite the British demographic in Spain having a distinctly pro-Brexit tinge, it is thought that this will not reflect in a dividend at the toll booth come the election this year.
According to Dr Susan Collard, from the University of Sussex, many British expats are fuming that they are ‘still living with the consequences of Brexit.’
A 2020 study found that the combined overseas vote share for Labour and the Liberal Democrats rose from 56 per cent in 2015 to 85 per cent in 2019
She told The Times: ‘Given the unpopularity of the Conservative Party in this country, I can’t see anything that they’ve done that would change the negative outlook for them based on the results of the data that we had.’
The main bone of contention was Brexit, she said, adding: ‘They’re not forgetting. Many are still living in the consequences of Brexit so all I could say is there isn’t any evidence that the mood has changed among those voters.’
Meanwhile, the idea that the Brits who emigrate to the Spanish costas are the Tory-voting, Brexit gammon types is a ‘a stereotype that belongs to the 1980s’.
‘The whole question of mobility in the EU has meant that going to live abroad is no longer posh people going to live in villas on the Mediterranean — it’s a hugely diverse population, they have hugely diverse views,’ she continued.
Sue Wilson MBE, who is the chair of the Bremain in Spain group which has campaigned for the reinstatement of voting rights, told the Olive Press: “Now the task of ensuring that Brits abroad understand the registration process and get themselves on the electoral register begins.”
British citizens, eligible Irish citizens and citizens of Crown Dependencies can now register to vote as long as they were either previously registered to vote in the UK or were previously resident in the UK.
Before beginning the process of registration, prospective voters will require proof of ID and a former UK address.
In order to prove your ID, you will require a National Insurance number and a date of birth. If you have a British passport, this will need to be scanned.
In order to prove your address, you will need to provide documentation containing your full name and address details.
Acceptable documentation for this includes: a UK driving licence (current or expired); council tax statement; credit card statement; utility or mobile phone bill; letter from an insurance company; correspondence from HMRC or the Department for Work and Pensions; P45, P60 form or a payslip; bank / building society passbook or a local authority rent book.