Expats deserve more voting rights

'Expats are classed with convicts and lunatics for the crime of moving to another European country to live'

FRENCH citizens living abroad now have their own minister representing their interests - but Britons living abroad lose their right to vote after 15 years. Connexion newsletter readers share their thoughts on expat voting rights and representation.

I have lived in France for over 25 years and bitterly resent the fact that the only vote I have is for a mayor. I cannot vote in England neither can I vote in France, not even for my conseil général. I, apparently, am classed with convicts and lunatics (even convicts may be able to vote!) for the crime of moving to another European country to live. Women suffered and died to get the vote yet expats are barred from voting and being represented and nothing is done about it.

Robina Forbes

With regard to your question "do you feel well represented?" My answer is NO! Once you leave Britain in my experience you are on your own.

J. Winnett

As a British citizen I feel very strongly that the huge numbers of us living in Europe should have our own UK government minister. We are still subject to many UK government laws, eg. the amount of pension we can take from our SIPPs or QROPS, UK taxation at source for ex public sector employees,European health cards etc.

We still hold British passports. Many of us watch British television, download British newspapers and are only a couple of hours plane journey from Westminster.

Yet, Britain is one of the few remaining countries of the developed world that offers us no representation and even strips us of our basic right to a vote after 15 years.

Dinah Austin

This matter is covered in my blog for pensioners - I have been in correspondence with Mark Harper (Parliamentary Secretary for Political and Constitutional Reform) on this matter.

It has been confirmed that the Cabinet Office is considering this issue. Nevertheless it is most important that all concerned expatriates should make their feelings known to Mr. Harper so that wise deliberations are made.

I suspect that there would be resistance to having MPs directly elected to Westminster, though the numbers of mainland Europe expatriates would warrant several! The number of expatriate pensioners alone in Europe plus Ireland is approaching over 420,000.

My own view is that there should be a minister responsible for the oversight of affairs appertaining to British Citizens abroad, but most particularly for those resident in the EU beyond the UK. The EU is a special case unlike the rest of the world.

There are a number of issues of an unsatisfactory nature which particularly concern many of us in the EU. These cannot be dealt with by UK based constituency MPs. There should be someone in Westminster with special concern for British Citizens within Europe. It is not sufficient that the 15 year ban alone is lifted.

Brian Cave

In my rle as a conseiller municipal I've several times asked our député to sort out problems for British residents here, which he has willingly and efficiently done, despite none of us being able to vote for him.

It seems to me the most logical thing is for us to have full voting rights in France, since what happens here (second home property tax etc) is much more significant than what happens in Britain.

I suppose it depends on the issue - and perhaps on where psychologically our hearts are? Or is that going too far?

Colin Parfitt

I'm 65 years old and I have NEVER been entitled to vote in a national election. I left UK in 1969 at the age of 23. I was on the electoral register, but there had been no election in those 2 years. (21 was the voting age at the time)

We lived in Belgium and then France and by the time the UK brought in legislation for expats, we had been away for too long.

I don't particularly want to vote in UK as I don't pay my taxes there, but I do think I should be able to vote in France and that as a European I should have a vote somewhere!

I'd be interested to know whether the expatriate French manage to vote in the their country of residence - giving them voices in two national elections, whilst I get none.

Chris Payne

Thank you for your invitation to reply to your news on expat rights. You and your readers may like to know that many initiatives are underway to obtain full expat rights some of which I spearheaded from 1996.

To that end, I work closely with British Residents Association of Switzerland, the British Community Committee in France, all political parties, and set up the UK delegation for Europe on the Move.

Like many compatriots my profession means being a global nomadic citizen, living in France close to Geneva.

Sylvia Moore

Tried asking my last constituency MP in UK about why voting papers never arrive. Response - Zilch! I think the only thing the Tories care about as far as Brits abroad is concerned is donations to their slush fund.

Colin Morley

As a native Channel Islander but a French resident for 4-years, I doubt whether I have any rights at all.....the Islands are neither members of the EU nor of the United Kingdom...I've already discovered that negative scenario from a double taxation point of view..

Francis Paul Lamort-morris

We've been here nearly 8 years, and the French certainly don't provide as much help language wise for any foreigners - you can almost hear the Gallic shrug from most government agencies if you're on the phone and ask them to speak slowly an...d clearly (in French) so that you can understand what they want. We've not had trouble getting voting papers through from the last constituency we lived in in England or from sorting out pensions, etc. from the UK. There was no help either for the grandchildren when they went into a French school hardly knowing any French. No-one spoke English to them, they were left to get on with it, and a year later were truly bi-lingual. Perhaps the best way to learn.

Gillian Jones

No they don't do anything for us once we've left the UK - it seems to be "you chose to leave - get on with it"

June Seymour

Coming up to 15 years away and will lose the right to vote in the UK soon. I hadn't noticed Britain doing anything much, although my "local MP" in the UK does listen when I email him - that will stop as soon as I am no longer a voter.

Paul Bristow

I do not understand why people do not take things up where they choose to live. If you are in the U.K. then take things up with your local M.P. if you are part time abroad but fiscally in the U.K. then you can try taking things up with your... local M.E.P. for anything concerning abroad, but if you have chosen to live in France - or elsewhere for that matter - then surely you should be trying to go through the local channels to get things done?

Cynthia Prentice