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British expats to get votes for life

PUBLISHED: 11:34 11 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:42 08 November 2016

Expats to get votes for life © bizoo_n / Thinkstockphotos

Expats to get votes for life © bizoo_n / Thinkstockphotos

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The 15-year-rule will be scrapped by 2020 meaning British citizens living abroad will keep the right to vote in UK elections for life

The British government has announced that it will remove the current 15-year time limit on British citizens who live abroad voting in UK elections by 2020, in time for the next parliamentary election.

Under the current rules once a British citizen has lived overseas for more than 15 years they lose the right to vote in the UK. This came to a head during the EU referendum when British citizens living in Europe were unable to vote in the referendum that would have a considerable impact on their lives abroad.

David Cameron had pledged to give British citizens living overseas ‘votes for life’ in the 2014 Conservative Party manifesto but details of the government’s plan for this have only just been published. It needs to be ratified by both houses of parliament.

Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution said: “British citizens who move abroad remain a part of our democracy and it is important they have the ability to participate. Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation.”

“Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country.”

Under the new system any British citizen living overseas who was previously resident or registered to vote in the UK will be able to vote in parliamentary elections. However, as with the current system, they will not be able to vote in local government elections, elections to the devolved legislatures and elections for police and crime commissioners. Whether they will be allowed to vote in future referendums will be decided by Parliament on a case-by-case basis.

Overseas voters will have to register to vote either online or using paper forms and will have to register again every 12 months.

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