IN PICS: Spain Anti-Brexit groups join People’s Vote march in London

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in London at the weekend to demand that the British government hold a final public vote on the terms of Brexit, among them dozens of Brits who had flown over from Spain.

IN PICS: Spain Anti-Brexit groups join People’s Vote march in London

On the second anniversary of the Brexit referendum, around 100,000 people marched on Parliament holding banners and waving EU flags to call for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final deal.

Among them were British citizens living in Spain who travelled to the UK to support the cause.

Members of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the rights of British citizens in Spain and the EU, travelled from across Spain to attend the biggest anti-Brexit protest since the 2016 vote.

Sue Scarrott, Bremain in Spain Council member, says of the event: “It was an amazing day. Young and old, families, all united in their passion that the People's Vote is the only way forward to make an informed decision on the deal. Let us see what the 'will of the people' really is.”

Elspeth Williams and Sue Wilson, both from Bremain in Spain attended the march in London. Photo: Bremain in Spain

Elspeth Williams, also of Bremain Council, adds: “What made the People's Vote march special was not only it being massive but that there were so many people who had never marched before who had appeared to support a People's Vote.” 

Sue Wilson (centre) with other campaigners outside Buckingham Palace during the march on Saturday. Photo: Bremain in Spain

Bremain in Spain chair, Sue Wilson, said: “Bremain in Spain members went to enormous lengths to be at the march, travelling from Spain and also France, Germany, Portugal and Italy. The sheer numbers that turned up shows that we refuse to give up and we're not going to 'get over it'.

Photo: AFP

“Recent polls suggest that even a third of Leave voters now support the need to see the deal before stepping into the abyss. Half of the people polled support a further vote, with only 25percent opposed to the idea,” Wilson added.

“Who on earth would ever sign up to a deal without knowing what it looks like first? No company would ever do that so why would a country do it? The government, stuck in its own rhetoric, needs to wake up and see what 'the people' are saying now,” she said.

 Photo: AFP

The march was attended by organisations including Open Britain, Best for Britain, the European Movement UK, Britain for Europe, Our Future our Choice, For our Future's Sake, Healthier In, Scientists for EU, Trade Deal Watch, Wales for Europe and In Facts.

A banner held over the shoulder of a statue of Winston Churchill. Photo: AFP

Bremain in Spain marched alongside other groups from the British in Europe coalition, which represents the interests of UK citizens in the EU, and also with various EU citizens' groups in the UK. These included The 3Million, Españoles de Reino Unido and In Limbo.

The march ended with a rally with speakers including leading anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, Labour MP David Lammy and Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas.

Comedians Andy Parson also made a speech as did Tony Robinson, who used a catchphrase of his most famous role Baldrick in Blackadder when he announced he would stop Brexit with “a cunning plan”.

Meanwhile a vigil was held outside the British Embassy in Madrid.

 Another large protest march is planned for Saturday October 20th in London.


Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.