Register to vote in case of new Brexit referendum

According to the British MP and former Transport Minister Jo Johnson “it is quite possible” UK Prime Minister Theresa May will agree to a new Brexit referendum being held – meaning now would be a good time for Britons in France to check their voter registration.

Speaking on ITV television’s Peston’s Politics programme, Mr Johnson, brother of well-known Brexiteer and former Foreign Secretary Boris, said that if Mrs May’s draft exit deal is voted down by MPs in just under two week’s time, then she will be “looking for a way out of this mess”.

Although she has previously said there will be no referendum, it is possible she will change her mind, as she did over holding a snap election last year, Mr Johnson said.

With this possibility in mind, the chairman of Liberal Democrats in France, Paul Fisher, has written for us about the importance of Britons registering to vote. Note however that should the rules for a new referendum be the same as for the 2016 one, expatriates who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years would be excluded again as a new British law giving them the vote (‘votes for life’) is not now expected to be finalised until well into 2019.

By Paul Fisher

At this crucial time in British history the Lib Dems in France urge you to register your democratic right to vote in the UK now: your voting rights have to be renewed annually. 

You must prepare for a People’s Vote, a general election and to stand up to be counted in our push for Votes for Life. 

If you have already lost your right to vote in the UK you will understand more than anybody the urgency of direct political action. Following the Lib Dems in France Annual General Meeting where our campaigns for Votes for Life and dedicated Overseas Constituencies and MPs for Britons abroad were discussed, we urge anyone you know who can, to register to vote.

British passport holders have a democratic right to participate in UK democracy, which is a two-way street.

The EU Council and the UK government have agreed the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU which has to be ratified by the UK parliament. 

In the event that the UK Parliament rejects this withdrawal agreement, then there is the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal or, with the political will, a People’s Vote. 

The LibDems are leading the cross-party political support to have a People’s Vote on the deal, with an option to Remain in the EU.

The ‘government’s deal’ and ‘no-deal’ is not a choice; the real choice is between leaving with the ‘government’s deal’ and ‘remaining in the EU’.

Under Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU, Britons in France will retain some of their current citizens’ rights but will become citizens with third country status (like Canadians, for example). 

This deal provides insufficient protection of citizens’ rights. It does not protect freedom of movement for British people in France across the whole of the EU and it removes rights as European citizens for future generations of Britons and does not protect democratic involvement in elections. 

Without an agreement, the UK will leave the EU on March 29, 2019 and Britons in France will immediately only have the rights of ‘third country’ nationals.

In both cases, Britons in France will lose their right to vote in French municipal and EU parliamentary elections. Those Britons in France who have resided outside the UK for more than 15 years are already acutely aware that they will no longer have the right to vote in any elections at all if the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019;  in four months time.

So what comes next? There is an alternative to no-deal and no voting rights. An estimated 700,000 Britons in Europe had no right to vote in the 2016 referendum.  There must now be a People’s Vote on the deal and the right for all Britons abroad to vote in it.

The Lib Dems have from the outset campaigned to stop Brexit and Lib Dems in France (and the national party in the UK) advocate for Votes for Life and overseas constituencies (such as France has for its citizens abroad).

You need to be registered to vote now to participate in our democracy at this crucial time in our history in Europe and to show solidarity with those who have already been disenfranchised. 

Whatever happens next, either a Peoples’ Vote and/or a general election, we all need to exercise our democratic rights and register to vote now at this link.

Remember also that you need to express a choice of voting method if you cannot vote in person in the UK. Consider registration for a proxy vote as this will guarantee your vote gets included, whereas in the past there have sometimes been problems with the postal voting process.

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