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BREXIT

Brexit: Madrid to host protest to demand People’s Vote

A huge march on Westminister to demand a People's Vote on Brexit will take place in London on Saturday. And at the same time, people will also be gathering in central Madrid.

Brexit: Madrid to host protest to demand People's Vote
Photo: AFP

In London on Saturday, just six days before Britain is (currently) scheduled to leave the European Union, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets to demand that the public is given a final say on any Brexit deal.

The “Put It To The People March” will begin at noon on Park Lane for a march to Parliament Square. 

Among those leading the calls for for a People's Vote will be Britons resident in Spain, with a large contingent flying over to London especially for the event – among them members of Bremain in Spain.

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Photo: AFP

Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain, will be flying over to join the march to Westminster along with around 100 members of the campaign group.. “We've supported the campaign for another referendum from the start, and we've actively campaigned to give the British public another say in this debate. The Brexit that was sold was a lie, a fantasy, a pipe-dream. The British public deserves a chance to think again.”

“The June 2016 referendum result started a Brexit nightmare for UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the EU. Since then, we've been working together to make our voices heard. We've been side-lined and silenced for too long. On Saturday, we'll be loud and proud and demanding
another referendum. Although most of us couldn't vote on our own futures in June 2016, and it's unlikely that we'll be able to vote in the next referendum, we wholeheartedly support a #PeoplesVote.”

Wilson concludes: “The public must be able to make an informed decision based on the facts, not the fantasy. We must establish if Brexit really is the 'will of the people' before making this momentous decision. It's the only way forward that can start to heal the divisions created by Brexit. If Theresa May can keep asking parliament the same question, how can she deny the public a second chance? As our new banner says: we want a voice, a vote and a final say, because Brexit is bonkers!”

Madrid demonstration

But for those who can't make it over to the big event in London, a demonstration will be held in central Madrid to show the strength of feeling against Brexit amongst those that live here. 

The campaign group Eurocitizens have organised an event to take place at 12pm in Plaza Margaret Thatcher – the small square adjacent to Plaza Colon in the center of Madrid. 

The event is designed to call for the protection of the rights of the five million Europeans in the UK and Britons in the EU and to ask for a second Brexit referendum.

“We intend to have fun, with activities for children, poetry and music as well as the speeches, and to celebrate our European identity which is now in jeopardy,” explain the organisers. 

“Because of Brexit, thousands of British and Spanish citizens have spent nearly three years living with mounting uncertainty. The imminent possibility of a no-deal Brexit makes all this even worse and affects the lives of thousands of people, especially those who are under thirty. In our opinion, this situation must stop.”

Campaigners are demanding that citizens' rights included in the yet-to-be-ratified withdrawal agreement are ring-fenced to guarantee legal certainty and are calling for a second referendum in which all British citizens resident in the EU are allowed to vote – regardless of time spend abroad.

“An alternative to ring-fencing of citizens' rights is a People's Vote, because to stay in the EU is the best way of guaranteeing our existing rights. Because of this we are asking for a second referendum, with a franchise that includes all of the five million Britons in the EU and Europeans in the UK. If that happens, we are optimistic about a victory for Remain,” explained Eurocitizens in a statement.  

“For EuroCitizens such a result would be the end of a long nightmare and would give us the possibility of continuing to live our European dream. We are Europeans. We feel European. We have exercised our European citizenship for years. And we want to continue being Europeans.”

For more information on how to join either the march in London on the event in Madrid contact Bremain in Spain or EuroCitizens.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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