The final stamp of approval on the UK’s ‘votes for life’ law could be delayed by Boris Johnson’s resignation, a British rights campaigner has said.
In April, a rule stipulating that Britons who move overseas lose their right to vote in parliamentary elections after 15 years abroad was changed to allow lifetime enfranchisement.
It delivered on a promise made by the Conservative Party in successive election manifestos.
However, the Elections Act still needs a statutory instrument (SI) before the ruling can be implemented.
Statutory instrument is simple and quick
This secondary legislation is not expected to be approved until next year and Mr Johnson’s resignation on July 7 casts doubts over the timetable, Roger Boaden, a rights campaigner and a former British in Europe steering group member, has said.
“Now we know when the successor to Mr Johnson will be announced – September 5 – it is possible to think he has run out of time to enact all that he wants,” Mr Boaden said.
“A statutory instrument is a quick mechanism, and it could be introduced easily, but I suspect [Johnson] will have many more bits of legislation he wants to get in before he goes.
“A statutory instrument does not usually need any debate, simply an introduction. So it is possible that he might slip it in, and we must watch for any publication of such.”
Labour oppose votes-for-life
Mr Boaden said another small worry was the possibility of a Labour victory if an early election is called.
Labour is against the ‘votes for life’ law as the party claims it would enable rich overseas donors to continue giving funds to the Conservatives, as the right to donate is linked to voting rights.
Mr Boaden does not believe any new Conservative prime minister would avoid introducing the SI when they get the chance.
Three million Britons abroad could use right to vote
Mr Boaden himself lost his right to vote in UK parliamentary elections in 2017.
He recently attempted to re-register but was refused as the Elections Act has still not been fully implemented, a fact he said is “frustrating”.
“I will, of course, challenge it and ask them to retain my application for the arrival of the SI,” he said.
The Elections Act removes the 15-year voting limit and allows Britons abroad who have lost the vote to re-register.
They must have previously been on a UK electoral register or be able to show evidence of having previously lived in the UK.
The move could give the right to some three million Britons currently retired or working abroad.