SHARE
COPY LINK
Paywall free

BREXIT

OPINION: Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long

Having been denied a vote in the Brexit referendum, the thoughts of many Brits in Europe are now turning to a possible second vote. Sue Wilson from Bremain in Spain explains why a new campaign has been launched.

OPINION: Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long
Photo: Deirdre Carney / The Local

On Friday April 5th, a new campaign was launched to give full voting rights to 10 million disenfranchised British and European citizens.

The “Let Us Vote” campaign launched by film director, Mike Leigh, was supported by 14 politicians from both houses of parliament, including MPs David Lammy, Layla Moran and Clive Lewis.  Further support comes from citizens’ rights and anti-Brexit campaign groups including British in Europe, the 3 Million and Another Europe is Possible.

The goal of the campaign is to give all UK residents (EU citizens included), and all British citizens living overseas, the right to vote in elections and referendums. So many British citizens living in the EU, along with UK resident EU citizens, were denied the right to vote in the June 2016 referendum, despite the fact that we have been significantly affected by the result.

READ ALSO: 


Photo: AFP

Bremain in Spain, and other citizens rights’ groups, have been campaigning for ‘Votes for Life’ for many years, although for considerably less time than 97-year-old, Harry Shindler, MBE, who has been campaigning for over 20 years.  Ever since the Conservative party committed to the restoration of voting rights to disenfranchised Brits, we have been hopeful, patient and a little sceptical.

The government’s commitment to resolving this issue was announced in the Queen’s speech of 27 May 2015, shortly after the general election. David Cameron made a manifesto commitment to restore voting rights to citizens living outside the UK for more than 15 years. A further commitment was made in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, with a promise to restore our voting rights before the next (scheduled) election in 2022. We now have a Private Members Bill – The Overseas Electors Bill 2017-2019 – sponsored by Glyn Davies MP.

The Bill has made slow but steady progress through parliament. I personally attended two of the debates in the House of Commons, including the last one on March 22. Unfortunately, at its’ last appearance for the Report Stage, the bill was filibustered by a Tory MP who sought to wreck its progress by talking it out of time. The bill is now ‘adjourned’, and the only subsequent response from the government has been that it “remains committed” to ending the 15-year limit.

The lack of a say in the 2016 referendum, and the snap election of 2017, has been a cause of great concern and annoyance for those affected by the results. British citizens have been greatly impacted by the referendum result and, as with EU citizens in the UK, have lived with fear, anxiety, stress, rage and depression. It’s bad enough to suffer those effects, but to have had no say in the process adds salt to the wound.

Mike Leigh expressed our feelings at the launch of the ‘Let us vote’ campaign.  He said: “The outcome of the next few weeks in politics could determine the course of our lives for decades to come. But many of the people who are most affected by the current situation – migrants living in the UK, and UK citizens living abroad – have never been offered the chance to have a stake in our democracy. Whatever our views on Brexit and party politics, we are united in the belief that it is fundamentally wrong that so many millions of people whose lives will be deeply affected by developments at Westminster are currently denied a vote.”

Having been denied a vote in the last referendum, our thoughts are now turning to the next one – a People’s Vote – which seems increasingly on the cards. Even with sufficient political will and a strong wind, it seems unlikely the bill will pass in time to give us a vote. All the more reason to welcome this new campaign and to give it, and its’ sponsors, our full support.

Brits in the EU have been silenced too frequently and for too long. Whether it’s our inability to take advantage of our democratic voting rights, or to have our voices heard by the British government and the media, we will not stay silent. As stated on our banner at the recent ‘Put it to the People’ march in London, it’s time to ‘Give us a Voice, Give us a Vote, Give us a Final Say’. These are our futures we are talking about – time we had a stake in them.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

OPINION: Happy Un-Brexit Day! – A time of confused emotions for Brits in Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

SHOW COMMENTS