What progress on overseas constituencies for Britons abroad?

France has 11 dedicated MPs for its citizens living abroad - UK citizens need similar representation, says pressure group

Campaigners are gathering MP support for a debate in Parliament
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Following the reinstatement of UK voting rights for Britons who have lived overseas for more than 15 years, the time could be ripe for another change, say campaigners – overseas constituencies, with MPs for the British abroad.

As long ago as October 2009, The Connexion reported on a challenge to the 15-year rule, with a campaigner saying it would be “even better” if the UK had overseas constituencies.

This would see the world divided into such areas as northern and southern Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and North America. Britons there would elect MPs to focus on issues relevant to them.

Read more: Britons in the EU told to push now for overseas constituencies

MPs could develop expertise in matters affecting overseas citizens

UK pressure group Unlock Democracy is among groups pushing for this.

Its director, former Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, said 17 countries have this, including France, Italy and Portugal. He believes it would be realistic to ask for a dozen MPs – France has 11 – as we can expect around half a million overseas voters in the coming election, and more in future.

“Whether it is a working-age person in Belgium with problems linked to Brexit or a Briton who moved to Canada 30 years ago and is fighting to have their pension uprated, there will be common issues that come up again and again.”

The MPs could develop expertise in such matters, unlike current MPs, whose overseas voters might only number in the hundreds so are not a priority.

Read more: French abroad are valued as our local ambassadors, says senator

How to support the campaign

The campaign is seeking MPs’ support for an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the issue, which, on writing, was backed by five Lib Dems and a DUP MP. EDMs are requests to Parliament to debate an issue and are a good way of assessing support.

It is also asking people to sign a petition and to write to their MPs.

The aim is to raise awareness among parties other than the Lib Dems, who have long supported it, Mr Brake said.

After the election, they will look for related issues and new bills to hang the idea on.

Among the main parties, only the Lib Dems replied to our emails to say they support this.

The new True & Fair Party, led by Gina Miller, also backs it, calling the current system “blatantly irrational”.

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