Let’s welcome the end of the 15 year rule

Legislation is in the pipeline to restore voting rights to around a million British nationals who have been disenfranchised by living overseas for over 15 years. See James Churchill’s article of 9th February in LDV for more aspects on the subject.

Reaction to previous articles has brought to light a number of misconceptions about this significant group, many of whom are potential Lib Dem voters and even members.

As representatives of Lib Dems Overseas we would like to allay any concerns or disinformation by addressing some of the most frequent points that have been raised in the past.

Why should Brits abroad get to vote when they don’t pay tax?

Most in fact pay tax in their host countries but Brits overseas are also liable to a range of taxes in the UK, such as income from UK rentals, pensions and Inheritance Tax which applies wherever they live in the world if they are deemed (as the vast majority are) UK domiciled.

Why don’t they just vote in their host countries?

Most Brits are transient in their host countries and in any event would not be allowed to vote unless they adopted citizenship, which in turn would normally entail cutting ties with the UK and potentially losing their passports.

Why would they be interested in voting if they no longer live in the UK?

Many, if not most, Brits working overseas plan to return to the UK at some point in their lives. They deserve a say so they can influence the kind of Britain they will return to and their children will inherit. If they all could have voted in the Brexit referendum it is highly likely the UK would still be part of the EU today. Even if a British citizen plans to remain overseas he probably has family members in the UK and supports the economy through home visits and investments.

Aren’t people who live overseas usually wealthy and likely to vote Conservative?

No doubt there are some high-living individuals around the world in tax havens like Monaco or living a life of Riley on a yacht in the Bahamas. But for every one of those there will be thousands employed as oil workers, legal and financial professionals, medical workers, entrepreneurs, missionaries, project teams, engineers, teachers etc., and of course a huge number of retirees and students.

Why would new voters support the Lib Dems?

Firstly, there is considerable disillusionment among the British community overseas regarding the performance of the present government and its party leader, or partying leader perhaps to be more accurate. The Lib Dems strongly support a closer union with the EU. Most Brits abroad would appear to share that view. Of the million British pensioners living abroad, half of them have had their state pensions frozen from the time they left the UK. Many appeals have been made in recent years to the Conservative government to address this long-standing anomaly and to consider the plight of the pensioners but they have chosen to turn a blind eye. The Lib Dems, however, are very supportive of their cause. Which party do you think these half a million frozen pensioners will vote for?

* Colin Bloodworth is a member of the Lib Dems Overseas Executive .

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brad Barrows 2nd Mar '22 - 7:00pm

    Even if every UK citizen who has chosen to leave the UK permanently to live in another country intended to vote Liberal Democrat, I would still not support them having a continuing say in UK elections. For clarity, I have no problem with UK citizens who live abroad for most of the year, or for those temporarily living abroad for work reasons etc, continuing to have a vote in UK elections. But for those who have chosen to emigrate permanently, they should lose their vote. Period.

  • Chris Moore 2nd Mar '22 - 7:29pm

    Brad, almost none out of the several million UK citizens abroad “chooses” to emigrate “permanently”.

    This is a fantasy on your part. Please go and meet some overseas citizens and you will not then be so fundamentally misinformed.

  • <iMany, if not most, Brits working overseas plan to return to the UK at some point in their lives. They deserve a say so they can influence the kind of Britain they will return to and their children will inherit.
    Given this effectively means return to the UK when they are older and potentially in need of care, perhaps we should be demanding lifetime NI contributions towards these costs.

    However, from family experience, I do think if you fall foul of the 15 year limit, you only have yourself to blame.

  • William Wallace 3rd Mar '22 - 11:22am

    The government’s current proposals however have not addressed issues such as checks o claims to be UK citizens, allocation of votes among constituencies ( Electoral Registration Officers are worried about lack of reliable records), and ability to get ballots out to overseas voters and back during short campaigns. We will be scrutinising the practicalities of introducing this as it goes through the Lords, and trying to get clearer answers fro mthe government.

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