With UK voters due to go to the polls next week, there has been a surge in registrations. However, it’s believed that hundreds of thousands of Brits living in other EU countries will not be eligible to vote, although many of them will be directly affected by the outcome of the so called “Brexit election”.
Election rules say that those who have lived abroad for over 15 years aren’t eligible to vote in elections. And in addition to this, many of those who have been advised to vote by proxy have reported problems accessing their postal votes in recent elections.
After Brexit, these UK nationals will face a change in their immigration status, as well as a great deal of uncertainty. Despite promises made by the government to protect their rights in the Brexit deal, many have already experienced problems and are worried about their futures.
The UK-EU divorce deal, if finalised, guarantees people’s right to stay in their countries of residence. It doesn’t however, clarify other areas, such as the right to access healthcare and what will happen with pensions and work visas.
Since the 2017 election, over 38,000 UK citizens living abroad have registered to vote, bringing the total number registered up to over 300,000. Many of these citizens have been advised to vote by proxy rather than by postal vote due to a lack of trust – in the last election, many did not receive ballot paper in time and were unable to vote.
According to Dr Michaela Benson of Goldsmiths College in London, who led research into UK citizens living in the UK, “Where people were registered to vote in Britain, they were finding postal vote ballot papers were arriving too late to be able to send them back first class, there were reports of people paying large amounts of money to send them back in time. At least with proxy vote you know vote has been cast and counted.”
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