THE British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley made the train journey to Malaga on Friday April 29 to speak to a collection of press and council representatives to promote the voter registration campaign.
Although the meeting was called at quite short notice, all of the most influential English newspapers in the south of Spain including Euro Weekly News, Olive Press and Sur in English plus Talk Radio Europe attended together with representatives of English speaking websites and councils who have large numbers of English speaking residents.
In some ways, whilst clearly anxious to ensure that as many British voters did take the trouble to register to vote, the Ambassador had a somewhat difficult position to defend in as much as the current government had, as part of its election manifesto, stated that it wanted to see one person one vote, but it had called the referendum with insufficient time to pass legislation to allow those UK passport holders resident in Spain (or elsewhere) who had lived here for more than 15 years to vote.
This coupled with the fact that those who had lived in Northern Ireland could not apply to register to vote on line and no obvious assistance was available for those without internet connection rather dampened the excitement of those being exhorted to invite British expats to register to vote.
Regardless of this trio of disappointments, there are still potentially hundreds of thousands of British potential voters still not registered for the referendum. No one actually knows the true number but since the start of 2016, it appears that as many as 80,000 people from Spain have visited the Government website https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and the majority of them have registered to vote.
It is a very simple process and basically requires a passport number, national insurance number and postcode of your last UK address. Despite everything that appears on any website, it is highly recommended that anyone who possibly can should register no later than May 16. The reason is very simple, as whilst you can register on-line, ballot papers will be sent by post on May 23 which means that you have to receive the physical document, cast your vote and then post it back in time to be counted in the referendum.
If you wish, you can appoint a proxy to vote for you or if you are in the UK at the time, you can physically vote yourself but the majority of people are most likely to want to vote by post. For this vote however, no on-line voting is possible.
Although both the Conservative government and the Labour party have indicated that they are in favour of remaining within the European Union, there is also a strong Brexit cadre, many of whom are members of government so the British Embassy is required to take a neutral position, recommending registration and promoting government policy but it will not campaign officially for either side.
One thing that the Ambassador made clear was that there is a great deal of misinformation with regards to what could or would happen in the event of an exit from the Union and the only things that he could really say with certainty is that in the event of leaving, British nationals would cease to be nationals of the European State and that everything else was effectively supposition and possibly wishful thinking.
Whilst the Embassy is currently spending a great deal of time in promoting registration, it will in due course take a much lower profile, in accordance with regulations concerning the Electoral Register and campaigning for or against the actual Brexit.
Those who are unable to register on-line are recommended to contact their nearest British Consulate office for advice and assistance but they should do this as soon as is possible.