If the UK votes next year to withdraw from the EU, what will be the impact on British ex-pats living elsewhere in the EU?
The answer isn’t straightforward and will depend on many decisions which have not been debated in the British parliament.
If the Referendum result is to leave the EU, there will likely be a ‘settlement’ period of at least 2 years. During this time, Britain and the EU will look at reciprocal arrangements, such as we now enjoy.
But remember, if Britain denies certain privileges to EU citizens wishing to live in the UK, then those privileges will almost certainly be withdrawn from us, the ex-pats.
These may include:
The loss of ex-pats’ right to freedom of movement within the EU. If we are not in the EU, we have no automatic right to remain in any EU country. Under the Schengen agreement, we will then be limited to stays of 90 days out of 180 unless a permanent residency card is issued by the State of residence, with provision of proof of sufficient income for support and health insurance.
We may be required to have a visa/work-visa to visit/work in mainland Europe.
Visas can be subject to quotas. This change of status could happen overnight. The Quota Number each year could be reduced.
We could (for financial reasons) be forced to move back to the UK which already has limited housing stock and problems with the NHS. An alternative could be to take local citizenship. Are your language skills good enough for that?
The European Health Insurance Card would probably no longer be valid - for UK visitors as well!.
Health provision under E120 (or S1) rules, could be withdrawn.
Our British state pensions could be frozen, as they are already in many other non-EU countries, such as Australia Canada, South Africa, etc. The law allows freezing of ex-pat pensions, unless reciprocal arrangements are in place.
We would probably lose entitlement to UK benefits such as Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, PIPs, etc.
Don’t think these things couldn’t/wouldn’t happen. We are already to be denied the winter fuel allowance in Portugal, France, Spain and three other EU countries on spurious grounds.
HELP YOURSELVES AND OTHERS: if you have been in Portugal for less than 15 years, REGISTER TO VOTE IN THE REFERENDUM AND USE YOUR VOTE TO KEEP BRITAIN IN THE EU.
https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote - have your passport and National Insurance Number to hand.
Question asked by Lord Lexden at 2.59 pm, Monday 6th July 2015 in the House of Lords:
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will fulfil their commitment to extend full voting rights to all United Kingdom citizens overseas before the referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union.”
Specific points raised by Peers in subsequent debate:
1. Whether the right to vote from abroad would also include the right to provide donations to political parties in the UK.
2. The desirability of compulsory registration.
3. Why is there concern for overseas citizens voting in an EU referendum when, at home, 800,000 people born and bred in Scotland did not have a vote, though resident in the United Kingdom, in something that affected Scotland and the
Point by point response:
1. “Whether donations can be made from income that has neither been earned in this country nor had UK tax paid on it” is not in any way related to British citizenship and the question of extending full voting rights to all such UK citizens overseas, particularly when very many of these expatriate citizens (e.g. all retired military, police, fire service, teachers, local authority retirees etc.) also continue to pay UK tax anyway. This is why the government has already confirmed that the right to vote is not necessarily related to paying tax e.g. Russian citizens resident and paying taxes in the UK cannot vote but Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident and paying taxes in the UK can.
The Government’s “Votes for Life” Bill” quite rightly would link a British citizen’s right to vote to holding British nationality and not arbitrarily to how long he or she has been resident overseas, with exceptions only then applied to e.g. the albeit rather odd historical left-over of Irish and Commonwealth citizens.
As it is, page 4 of the Electoral Commission’s publication “Managing donations to political parties” includes as a permissible source of donations “An individual registered on a UK electoral register including overseas electors and those leaving bequests”.
2. Concerning the desirability or not of compulsory registration “if we are to have a referendum that gives an opportunity to all our citizens to vote”, the Scottish Independence Referendum with its over 84% turnout, well above the normal rate for UK elections, proves that compulsory registration is not necessary when the issue is considered important and contentious enough to be put to all British citizens in a
However, the case of Australia which has compulsory voting, except for Australians who live abroad, is instructive. If the latter desire to continue to vote they must apply for overseas elector status within three years of their departure, otherwise they lose their right to vote. Therefore, an option for the British government to consider for the “Votes for Life” Bill might be to put the onus on the British citizen overseas to choose to register to vote or not, by applying for “overseas voting status” within a defined period of years.
3. The case of the Scottish Independence Referendum “where 800,000 people born and bred in Scotland did not have a vote, though resident in the United Kingdom, in something that affected Scotland and the United Kingdom,” has some important differences when compared with an EU referendum including all UK citizens.
To avoid a controversial and likely drawn-out process of determining qualifying degrees of “Scottishness”, it was expedient for the SNP and the Government to limit the franchise to the Local Electoral Register, which meant that all resident EU national citizens could vote in it but not Scots non-resident in Scotland.
In the case of the EU referendum, it is the National Electoral Register which is currently considered and means that no EU nationals (other than British) would be on this register, whilst all British nationals abroad for over 15 years would be excluded.
Together between 1 and 2 million UK citizens resident overseas and within the European Union will be involved, but not all able to vote, in something that will affect the UK and the EU and surely impact them. Unlike “Scottishness” their “Britishness” can be very conveniently defined by their passports and/or national insurance numbers via the existing on-line voter registration system.
Rodney Harper & Brian Cave 9th July, 2015
Votes for Expat Brits campaign
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