Chances fade for new Brexit vote for Britons abroad

With no deal finalised with less than three weeks to go before the Brexit deadline, a second referendum is being cited as an increasing possibility – but there will almost certainly be no vote again for Britons living abroad for more than 15 years.

[Update: the bill failed entirely shortely after this article was written, due to insufficient remaining time to debate it] A bill giving back the vote in UK elections Britons living outside the country for an extended period – cancelling the so-called ‘15-year rule’  – is still going through Parliament a year and eight months after it was first presented in summer 2017.

This rule would be expected to bar Britons living abroad for more than 15 years from another referendum, as it did in 2016. It would also bar them from any new general election, though the government has promised to change the rule before the next scheduled one in 2022.

In January the ‘report stage’ debate on the bill in the House of Commons was put off for two months and it is currently scheduled for March 22, just a week before the planned Brexit day.

The bill would then have to go through the House of Lords and once it becomes law there would need to be time to put practical measures in place to register new voters – all of which could not take place before a new referendum unless there was a significant delay.

This comes as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: “There is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit. If you want to stop Brexit you only need to do three things: kill this deal, get an extension and then have a second referendum.

“Within three weeks people could have two of those three things and quite possibly the third one could be on the way through the Labour Party.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday: “Reject it [the deal] and no one knows what will happen. We may not leave the EU for many months, we may leave without the protections that the deal provides. We many never leave at all.”

Tomorrow MPs will vote again on the deal, however talks with the EU are said to be in ‘deadlock’ with little progress since the deal was previously voted down by a record majority.

If the MPs reject it again there will be a vote on Wednesday on whether or not the UK should leave with no deal, and then on Thursday if no-deal is rejected there would be a debate on whether to ask the EU for an extension.

EU leaders are known to oppose extending the Brexit deadline unless a clear reason is given.

Previous articles

MPs must be decisive to fend off no-deal 

Time for decisions by UK says French senator 

15-year voting rule debate put off by two months 

Would Britons abroad have a say in a People's Vote?

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