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Has 'votes for life' for Britons in France now come into effect?

A bill enabling people living abroad for more than 15 years to vote in the UK received Royal Assent in April

A reader asks when the votes for life policy for Britons abroad will come into full effect Pic: chrisdorney / Shutterstock

Reader Question: Is the right to vote in the UK now in place for Britons who live permanently abroad?

The British government’s Elections Act 2022, which removes a rule stipulating that Britons living abroad can only vote in the UK until 15 years have passed since they left the country, received Royal Assent on April 28, 2022. 

This means that Britons who moved to France before 2007 will once again have a right to vote in UK elections, in what has been called the ‘votes for life’ policy. 

Read more: Votes for life for Britons abroad: ‘I’d use mine to reverse Brexit’

They will be allowed to vote in the constituency where they were last registered, or if never registered, then the last one in which they lived when they left the UK, subject to showing proof of having previously been a resident there to officials.

The latter rule is new; up to now to vote in the UK Britons overseas (or their parents if they were minors when they left) had to have been previously registered in a constituency.

It will also be easier for Britons living overseas to renew their voter registration as this will only be required every three years instead of annually.

However, although the Elections Act is now law, its provisions will not take effect immediately. 

Secondary legislation (ie. new regulations) is needed to implement many of the measures outlined in the Act. This is set to be brought forward in 2023, with a view to enabling overseas citizens to vote by 2024.

Therefore, it is not currently possible for Britons who have been abroad for more than 15 years to vote in the UK, but if the next general election takes place in 2024 as would normally be expected, they should be eligible. 

If a vote takes place sooner than that, the secondary legislation may not be ready.

It is estimated that removing the 15-year limit will mean around 2 million additional British nationals living overseas will once again be eligible to register to vote. 

There is no readily available data on the exact number of people in France who are affected, but it will be in the tens of thousands, as more than 100,000 Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cards were issued in France.

Related articles 

Votes for life for Britons abroad expected within weeks

‘We're proud to be voting in France for first time this election’ 

French election votes annulled as cast in church confession box

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