SHARE
COPY LINK

BREXIT

The ‘Brexit election’: Why Britons in Europe should register for a proxy rather than postal vote

With a UK to hold the "most important election in a generation" on December 12th, Brits in the EU are being urged to register to vote. Here are your options for voting from overseas.

The 'Brexit election': Why Britons in Europe should register for a proxy rather than postal vote
Is Britain heading for a new election? Photo: AFP

The UK is just weeks away from another general election and this one might matter more than most to Britons living abroad, especially those in the EU.

The general view is that the future rights of Britons living in the EU – and indeed their futures in general – will depend on who wins the next general election.

That's because the outcome of Brexit is still undecided.

While PM Boris Johnson wants a big majority to get his Brexit deal through parliament, opposition parties like Labour and the Liberal Democrats favour a second referendum or even cancelling Brexit altogether.

So Britons living in the EU are being urged to make sure they are registered to vote, at least those who are eligible.

Tens of thousand of Brits will be denied a vote because they have lived outside the UK for over 15 years.

But many more are simply not registered to vote.

Although there an estimated 5.5 million Brits living abroad in December 2013 – including 1.2 million in the EU – there were only 26,000 registered to vote.

After a campaign by the Electoral Commission that figure had increased to 264,000 by 2016.

So what do I need to do?

The first step to voting in any election in the UK is to make sure you are on the electoral roll or register. You can normally register to vote up to 12 days before a general election, after which the register closes.

You can do that online by visiting https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

You'll need certain information like your National Insurance number and your previous address as well as your passport number. But the process only takes a few minutes.

Note you will also be expected to say when you left the UK, which is important given the 15 year rule around voting. While you might be tempted to shift the dates to be able to vote, you are warned that the information you give must be truthful.

One thing to note is that you will be registered in the constituency where you last voted (or were last registered) rather than for example your home town.

Overseas voters need to re-register on the electoral roll every year so many voters end up falling off it in between elections without realising, even though reminders are meant to be sent out.

You can contact your local electoral office to find out your status.

Proxy versus postal?

When you register as an overseas voter you will be asked whether you want to vote by proxy (in other words get someone you trust to vote for you) or by post. You can also vote in person by returning to the UK although that's unlikely to be possible for most people.

The question of proxy or post is increasingly important, as current conversations on online forums will attest.

There have been numerous problems around postal voting in recent elections not least May's European elections when scores of Brits in the EU saw their votes go uncounted.

British resident living in the EU have been warned by local councils that proxy voting would be more reliable.

“If a snap election is called, the timetable for this election will be shorter than usual. Therefore there is a risk that overseas voters will not receive their postal ballot packs with enough time to return them to us by the close of poll,” read the text of a letter sent to one British voter in France from a London council.

“We wanted to make you aware of the risks and therefore encourage you to consider arranging a proxy vote instead.”

As a result, and due to the previous unreliability of postal voting, many Britons have concluded that it's better to register for proxy vote.

What you need to be aware of for a proxy vote is that it will be cast in the last constituency you lived in, so you will need to know someone living in that constituency who is registered to vote and who is willing to cast your ballot at the correct polling station. They will be sent a card telling them where exactly they need to go.

You'll need to also make sure your proxy voter is not casting ballots for others either as one voter is only entitled to cast ballots for TWO other people.

Note that local political parties offer to organise proxy voters for you if you are struggling to find one.

Proxy vote by post

Note that if your proxy cannot get to your voting station then they can also send in the ballot by post for you, although then you are relying on the post once again.

“If your proxy cannot get to the polling station, they can apply to vote for you by post. They can apply to do this by 5pm, 11 working days before the poll. They can contact the electoral registration office for more details and to request a further application form,” reads the information from the government.

It's basically a two step process and the advice is to get in touch with your Electoral Registration Office who can help you sort this out.

To apply for a proxy vote you need to download and send in this form to your former local electoral office by either email or post.

The application must arrive six working days before the poll.

If you are registered to vote and still prefer to apply for a postal vote then you can print and fill out this form and send it to your electoral registration office. To find out more visit www.yourvotematters.co.uk

Note that your application to register for a postal vote must arrive at the electoral office 12 days before the vote and your actual ballot must arrive by polling day, which unfortunately has not always been the case.

If you have any further questions or points to make about voting from overseas please contact us at [email protected]

Member comments

  1. “Tens of thousand of Brits will be denied a vote because they have lived outside the UK for over 15 years.”
    So where’s this so called democracy the readers of the British guttersnipe press are always screaming about?

  2. Ridiculous that we, the most affected, have no vote. We have, legally, lived and worked in France (twice), Spain and Belgium (three times) and have been resident, since 1999, in France. We have long-term cartes de séjours, but still risk losing our freedom of movement within the EU.
    No idea where the two previous, illiterate, comments are coming from

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

BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

SHOW COMMENTS