We celebrate #EuropeDay2023 by highlighting the various work we do to secure EU citizens’ rights. For the past decade we’ve campaigned for the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Brits living abroad.
Most recently, New Europeans UK and Unlock Democracy have teamed up to launch a campaign to push for the introduction of MPs for overseas UK parliamentary constituencies to represent Brits living abroad.
The campaign gets underway as the UK government abolishes the bar, which prevents Britons who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections. The move followed a 20-year-long battle by Harry Shindler, a Second World War veteran and British resident in Italy to remove the so-called 15-year rule. Harry Shindler recently died at the grand age of 101.
Chair of New Europeans, Ruvi Ziegler, said: “The removal of the 15-year bar really strengthens the case for special representation for UK voters residing abroad. Whereas Britons living abroad retain interests on the national level that justify giving them the vote, their links to a constituency in the UK, which they may have left decades ago, may be weak and is likely to get even weaker with the passage of time.”
Former MP Tom Brake, now Director of campaign group Unlock Democracy said: “With the best will in the world, I know MPs struggle to grasp the different administrative, retirement or employment challenges a UK citizen in the Czech Republic faces, compared to citizens in France, Thailand or the USA. That is why we are making the case for overseas constituency MPs who would develop expert knowledge of the problems faced by UK citizens living in different parts of the world.”
A 2022 report entitled ‘British citizens in the EU after Brexit’, led by Professor Michaela Benson, revealed a population, who identify as both British and European. The report confirmed that Brexit and the Covid pandemic have had a significantly negative impact on feelings towards the UK amongst Britons in Europe. Dissatisfaction with political disenfranchisement in the UK and abroad featured prominently among those taking part in the survey. The report concluded that: “While the vote for life will be welcomed, more could be done to tailor the franchise, so that the extensive population of British citizens living outside the UK might have better democratic representation.”
The campaign is already building momentum with a paper in favour of overseas constituencies submitted to the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum (NPF).
A briefing paper is also now being distributed to parliamentarians of all parties who have expressed an interest in overseas constituencies.