Overseas Britons wanting to vote need to check they are on the electoral roll at their last UK address and then can apply for a postal or proxy vote.
Those who have lived outside the UK for 15 years or more remain unable to vote as the long-promised rule change has not been put into effect.
Former Conservative leader, David Cameron, finally bowed to pressure from overseas voters and announced the government would introduce a Bill to ensure all British and eligible expatriates would be able to cast their votes. This still has not happened and this Bill will not be passed into law before snap general election date of June 8th, thus neatly denying overseas voters the chance to participate in shaping Britain’s future government.
The tireless campaign work of overseas British citizens groups was all set to produce a great victory over the 15 year rule but, having recently been unable to vote in the 2015 general election and the 2016 Brexit referendum, still have no say in the choice of government to lead Brexit negotiations.
Of the hundreds of thousands of expatriates affected, an estimated 72% were against the UK leaving Europe and Theresa May may be unconcerned that overseas voters likely to vote against her, again have been denied the option of doing so.
The Conservative government’s 2015 election manifesto includes a pledge to scrap the 15-year-limit as a ‘Votes for Life’ Bill would be drafted and voted on by MPs.
Last autumn the Constitution Minister, Chris Skidmore, gave hope and cheer to campaigners and released a welcome statement on how the Votes for Life Bill would progress, stating,
"British citizens who move abroad remain a part of our democracy and it is important they have the ability to participate. Following the British people's decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation. Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU."
UK nationals who have been registered to vote in the UK and are within the 15 cut-off date can register as an overseas voter and can vote in the forthcoming snap general election.
Votes for Brits supporter, MP Sir Roger Gale wrote today:
“Not surprisingly I have received a number of queries about the status of the "Votes for Life" legislation proposed in the last Conservative Manifesto.
The commitment, made in good faith, was to have the legislation and supporting franchise infrastructure approved by the Electoral Commission on the statute book in time for a 2020 General Election and my understanding from Chris Skidmore in the Cabinet Office is that that process was on track at the time that the Prime Minister announced her intention to seek an election on June 8th.
It gives me no pleasure to have to say that there is no prospect of this process being expedited, as some have sought to suggest, by the time that Parliament is dissolved on 2nd/3rd May. Only agreed and non-contentious measures will be allowed to pass through both Houses of Parliament - and a "Votes for Life" bill will have to go through both Houses - before the House is prorogued. All other (contentious) measures will have to be carried over or re-introduced in the next parliament.
The short answer to the "why was it not done sooner" question is that the measure is contentious - it is not supported by the Labour and Liberal parties in an Upper House in which the Government does not have a majority. There is an additional complication , as explained to me by Chris Grayling when he was Leader of the House, which is that the bill will be a franchise measure and, under the `long title`, amendable in the House of Lords. That House is known to want to extend the franchise to sixteen year-olds - a measure that is in itself contentious - and is likely to seek to use a "Votes for Life" bill as a vehicle to achieve other objectives. The horse-trading process will therefore take time that is simply no longer available in this parliament.
I am sorry to have to offer blunt and disappointing news but can only say that I, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and others who support the "Votes for Life" cause, will seek to ensure that this is contained within our Party`s manifesto and introduced as early as possible in the next parliament.” Sir Roger Gale MP.