Read carefully! New plans published on expat voting rights

Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore

PRESS RELEASE: Government delivers on pledge to give back British expats the right to vote.

The government today published detailed plans on how it will deliver its commitment to allow all expats to vote in parliamentary elections.

The Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, announced the policy statement which sets out how the government will remove the current 15-year time limit on British citizens who live abroad registering as overseas electors.


The changes would give all eligible British citizens who have lived in the UK a lifelong right to vote in parliamentary elections. It would mean all eligible overseas electors are able to register to vote quickly and easily, while maintaining the integrity of the electoral register and guarding against fraud.

Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, said:

“This statement shows how we will introduce ‘votes for life’, scrapping the 15-year rule. 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.

“Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country.”

This proposed policy is the latest in a series of measures to make it easier for overseas voters to take part in British democracy. During the last Parliament, the government introduced online voter registration, making it quick, easy and secure to register anywhere in the world. The government also took steps to extend the electoral timetable for postal ballots to be issued earlier to ensure that as many electors as possible can participate in their democracy.

Read the policy statement on ‘A democracy that works for everyone: British citizens overseas’.


  1. Wow! An important step forward. However, “The franchise for referendums will continue to be set by Parliament on a case-by-case basis” says the Cabinet Office document.

    In other words we British expats will be able to vote in general elections, but not necessarily in a future referendum. Hmm.

    Also, at first glance I don’t see any provision for elections to the Scottish parliament, the 
    Welsh assembly, or the NI parliament. As a native Scot who was not allowed to vote in the last Scottish election but who was allowed to vote in the Westminster parliament election I would say this is an obvious inconsistency. It is still only partial democracy – not full democracy.

  2. They should make this retroactive. Backdate it and call on all the disenfranchised expats to vote in the EuroRef. Oh, and check their récords to ensure all registered postal voters’ papers were received, because I’ve heard the postage paid frank was insufficient. Then, based upon the full result, they can say that ‘the British people have spoken’ and act accordingly.
    If they don’t do this, we’ll know for certain they deliberately postponed the ‘votes for life’ until after the in/out referendum.

  3. This is badly and only partly thought out. It still doesn’t propose to re-enfranchise all UK citizens living abroad for over 15 years – it leaves out those who have never lived in the UK. Also the checks proposed are all about checking that one was once upon a time registered to vote in the UK. I think though that it leaves out those who have never been able to register in a UK constituency because they may have been born abroad and lived abroad until they were over 18 years old. Also, why all this emphasis on where one may have been registered before – fine for those who were, but why not give a choice of where to register to ALL other UK citizens, based on birth, adoption, naturalisation etc papers and passports for this who have them?
    This is NOT votes for all UK citizens!!


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