January 30th 2014
Ex-Pat UK citizens should be given the right to vote in perpetuity. That is the view expressed this morning by Sir Roger Gale, MP (North Thanet) following a statement by the European Commission in support of the proposal. In a rare moment of harmony with Brussels the euro-sceptic MP has said:
“It is not often that I agree with the Commission and of course the manner in which we determine our electoral system is and must remain a matter for the UK and not the EU but in this instance they have got it right.
In the interests of democracy all UK citizens, wherever they may reside, should have the right to vote in both UK parliamentary elections and in a future EU referendum if , as I hope, there is to be one. In most developed democracies citizens have the right to vote in perpetuity. In the UK that right, for those overseas, is limited to 15 years and the registration system is far too complex. That is the case that we put to the Commission when Harry Shindler and I met with Commissioner Reding last year and I am pleased that Harry`s particularly powerful case seems to have found favour. At 93 Harry (who received the MBE for services to the United Kingdom in the New Years` Honours list) may not have too many votes left in him and we need to get on with this.
Personally, I would like to see ex-pats enabled to vote at the next general election but given Liberal Democrat resistance to a change that seems unlikely. I know that the Cabinet Office is working on a simplification of the registration system and I hope that we shall have a manifesto commitment for 2015 so that at the very least we can legislate to give ex-pats the absolute right to vote in an in/out EU Referendum by 2017. That is the least that we can do for people who in many cases have paid UK taxes throughout their lives, may have fought for our Country and have children and grandchildren still living in Britain"