Last year the Tory government announced it would introduce a bill to scrap the unpopular 15-year-limit on expat voting rights in time for the next general election.
But after Conservative PM Theresa May made the shock announcement on Tuesday that she planned to hold a snap election on June 8th, it’s clear the limit will not be ditched in time, meeting tens of thousands of longterm expats living in Spain and around the world will be disenfranchized yet again.
British citizens living abroad who had successfully campaigned against the 15-year-rule for many years will be furious at the thought of not having a vote once again, despite being promised it.
Many long term British expats were angry at not having a vote in the 2015 general election and in particular the momentous 2016 Brexit referendum which directly impacted them.
The conservative government had included a pledge to scrap the 15-year-limit in its 2015 election manifesto and last year announced the “votes for life” bill would be drawn up in time for the 2020 general election.
But it won't be ready in time for the vote in June.
A petition was started on Wednesday demanding that the right to vote in the June 8th general election be extended to all British citizens abroad.
“We, the undersigned, are asking you, Theresa May, to extend the fundamental right to a vote to all British citizens, regardless of where in the world they reside or how long they have lived outside the UK,” wrote Chris Madsen, a resident of Marseille, France on the Change.org petition.
Forums were quickly filled with complaints by those British residents abroad riled at the idea that they would yet again be disenfranchised.
“We are furious, that the vote for life hasn't been implemented before this election, abandoned yet again,” said Valerie Chaplin, a member of Bremain in Spain, which campaigns for the rights of British people in Spain.
“Cameron promised us a vote in the next election, May promised us a vote in the next election, all I have is broken promises,” commented Steve Gilbert on the Bremain in Spain Facebook page.
Announcing plans to lift the 15-year rule in October last year, Chris Skidmore, the constitution minister, said: “This statement shows how we will introduce “votes for life”.
“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.
“Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.”
Christopher Chantrey Chairman of the British Community Committee of France told The Local: “There is little hope now of the promised Votes For Life Bill being passed before the registration deadline for the June 8 election. So once again, hundreds of thousands of UK citizens will be unfairly deprived of their chance to vote.
“I am very, very disappointed that the Government has once again forgotten us, and once again forgotten the promise it made to give us the lifelong voting rights that virtually all other advanced democracies already enjoy.”
Brits who are eligible to vote must make sure they are on the electoral roll and apply for a postal or a proxy vote.