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Expat Right To Referendum Vote Won’t Go Away

Lib Dem peers are readying amendments to the European Union Referendum Bill to call for expats to have the right vote on polling day.

The government has denied expats the right to vote on whether the UK leaves the EU even though millions of British citizens who have emigrated will be directly affected by the result.

Angry expats have campaigned for referendum vote, but Prime Minister David Cameron insists they are excluded.

The bill has reached the first debate stage in the House of Lords, where the Lib Dems, backed by cross party supporters unaffiliated to Labour or the Tories have pledged to back them.

Amendments up for discussion

Four amendments will be attached to the bill for debate at the committee stage –

  • That expats have the right to vote
  • That 16 and 17 year olds are included in the electorate as they were in the Scottish Referendum
  • That a detailed report assessing the impact of Britain leaving the EU is put before MPs and the Lords
  • That EU migrants in the UK should have the right to vote as well

Chairman of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats Giles Goodall announced the measures had been agreed as amendments in the Lords.

Expats see the referendum Bill as unfair because Commonwealth and Irish citizens in Gibraltar may vote, but expats who have been away from Britain for more than 15 years are barred.

Election pledge

That’s despite an election manifesto pledge from David Cameron promising to bring a bill before Parliament removing the restriction before 2020.

However, he has repeatedly said that this will not happen by before the EU Referendum scheduled for some time in 2017.

This promise was restated by Conservative Baroness Anelay at the start of the referendum debate in the Lords – but she also confirmed the 15-year rule would not be lifted until after the vote.

The irony of the debate was members of the House of Lords living in France have the right to debate and vote on the referendum bill, but are excluded from taking part in the referendum as they have lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years.

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