EU Critical of UK's treatment of its Expats

Britain is 'punishing' expats by denying vote, Europe says

European Commission says Britain is treating vote-less expats like 'second class citizens'

More than five million Britons live abroad, but only 20,000 are registered to vote Photo: ALAMY

By Matthew Holehouse and Elizabeth Roberts

7:45PM GMT 29 Jan 2014



Britain is “punishing” its expatriates for leaving the country by denying them the right to vote, the European Commission has said.

The Government should overturn a law which strips UK citizens of their right to vote if they have not been on the electoral roll for the past fifteen years, Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner said.

Britons who retire abroad are treated as “second class citizens” because of rules that run contrary to European principles of freedom of movement, Ms Reding said.

More than five million Britons live abroad, but only 20,000 are registered to vote. The Government is not thought to keep track of how many have lost their vote under the clause.

“The right to vote is one of the fundamental political rights of citizenship. It is part of the very fabric of democracy,” said Ms Reding. “Depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement. Such practices risk making them second-class citizens.”

The European Commission raised the example of a British pensioner who retires to France but keeps in contact with friends, owns a flat in the UK and follows political developments on British radio and TV, yet is unable to take part in elections.

Last year Harry Shindler, 91, a war veteran and long-term resident of Italy, lost a case at the European Court of Human Rights to regain the vote.

The ECHR said it its judgement that links such as property, pensions and bank accounts did not amount to a close connection to the UK, and it is up to the British Government to choose a cut-off point.

But European Commission said principle behind the “disenfranchisement rules” that expats have insufficient ties to their home country “seems outdated in today’s interconnect world”.

Denmark, Ireland, Cyrpus and Malta should also repeal similar rules, the commission said.

Graham Richards, of the Votes for Expats Campaign, said the right was particularly important given prospect of an EU referendum vote. "Why is it that the French government, and other EU governments, encourage their expats now living abroad to vote, and provide polling booths?" he said.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said the announcement was another example of European interference in national matters.

The right to freedom of movement is being used to trump British laws and “broaden EU competencies,” Mr Grayling told MPs.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The issue of who votes in domestic elections is clearly a matter for national governments and not the European Commission. The Government’s position has been backed by the Courts and the Government is not minded to change it.”

Under plans revealed yesterday, the public will be able to register to vote online, including using a smartphone or a tablet, instead of returning a paper form by post. Officials hope it will cut down on fraudulent “ghost” voters.

Write a new comment: (Click here)
Characters left: 160
DONE Sending...
See all comments

| Reply

Latest comments

11.09 | 19:03

Thank you for your opinion. However, the UK is far from being oppressed by the EU. We are one of the leaders not followers.

18.06 | 14:34

What a load of rubbish, who wants to be controlled by any devil ,the English have proved over history that they will not be oppressed

18.01 | 13:35

Dear Kathleen, Thank you for visiting the website and posting your comment in support of our cause. Please, if you can find time, write to your UK MP. Thanks

18.01 | 13:20

This proposal is in my opinion a clear breach of EU law.

You liked this page
Make your own website like I did.
It's easy, and absolutely free.