EU referendum – Press release from British Embassy in Paris.
The British Embassy in Paris has launched a seven-day countdown campaign and competition to raise awareness of Overseas Voter Registration Day (OVRD) on 4th February among expatriates in France.
The press release is available [Here]
THE LABOUR PARTY STATEMENT ON OVERSEAS VOTING
After much lobbying and cajoling by Labour International, Ed Miliband’s office has issued the following statement to Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.fr
Not as positive as we might have wished but at least an acknowledgement of the issue. Mention of the Ten-Minute Rule Bill suggest that Labour MPs might not vote against it. However, it is number 15 on the list of Bills and may well not be debated. If my understanding is correct it will go through ‘on the nod’ unless one single MP voices an objection and then it will fall.
As you know, British expats who have been resident and registered to vote in the fifteen years prior to an election are eligible to vote in elections for the UK Parliament and the European Parliament as long as they are registered as an overseas voter.
We appreciate that there have been calls for this 15-year rule to be relaxed or abolished in Britain and that this is supported by some expats who are currently unable to vote in UK elections or are at risk of losing their right to vote in upcoming elections. We also recognise that a number of other countries do allow permanent voting rights for expats.
The voting rights of British citizens is, of course, an extremely important issue and we agree this should be looked at carefully. As you say in your letter, a Ten Minute Rule Bill – the UK Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill – has been introduced to Parliament and proposes to legislate for permanent voting rights for British expats. The Bill is now scheduled to receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th March.
Labour hopes this Bill will provide an opportunity for the House of Commons to debate this issue and consider the merits and demerits of the current 15-year rule.
We also believe we need to do more to encourage all citizens – expats and those registered in the UK – to register to vote. It is welcome that the Electoral Commission has set a target of getting 100,000 more overseas voters registered before the next General Election. The introduction of online registration also means it is now easier than ever for Brits abroad to register to vote. It remains important, though, that the Government continue to look into other ways of engaging British citizens abroad to register and participate in elections.
Authorship email: A Williams, office of Ed Miliband, firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is the text of an e-mail from the Branch Secretary published on this site recently:
“From: Richard Smith
Subject: UK TAX ALLOWANCES
I am sure that, by now, you will be aware that the UK government is proposing to remove the tax allowances for UK citizens that are resident abroad. This will affect all those that have taxable income in the UK such as Government Pensions (retired Teachers, Nurses, Policemen, Firemen, Military personnel and other public servants) that are covered by the Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France. It will also include those people with UK property that is rented out – tax payable in the UK.
The current allowance is £10,000 rising to £10,500 later this year – the UK government is proposing to reduce this to zero. This means that you will pay UK tax on every penny of your pension or rental income.
The government is consulting on this proposal The– see link below – which closes on October 9th. Section 7 contains a number of questions and you can reply to as many as are relevant to you.”
Unfortunately the consultation period has now ended. However, you can find out the outcome of the public feedback by visiting the Government web page – <HERE>.
We will post helpful comments on the Goverment decision as soon as we know and this will be one of the items on our next branch meeting agenda.
Delegation meets with European Commission Vice-president
On 5th September, at the invitation of Harry Shindler, I attended a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission representing Labour International. The meeting was with the vice-president of the Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, and her officials to discuss the problem of the disenfranchisement of citizens of some EU member states – principally the UK, but a total of 8 countries that deny their citizens the right to vote in national elections once they live outside their home country. There were also representatives of other political parties and interest groups present, including Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout, and at Harry’s invitation our delegation was fronted by Roger Gale MP (Con).
Mme Reding was very encouraging in her support and her team are investigating what action the EC might take to rectify the situation. She did, however, warn that the EC could not issue a Directive or take legal action unless given the competence by member states – usually in the form of a Treaty. She didn’t rule out the possibility of action through the European Court of Justice if there is a case to be brought on the grounds of restriction to the free movement Article. After she left the meeting we continued in discussion with her officials and legal team for a further hour, making points for them to investigate and answering technical questions posed by us.
She listened carefully to the arguments we put forward but said that we could not leave the matter totally in the hands of the Commission. As national elections currently remain in the competence of member states, it is up to the citizens of those states to bring pressure on their home governments. Our campaign must continue to persuade all parliamentary groups and political parties to change their attitude to expat voters in the hope of getting the 15-year cut-off removed from legislation and ultimately to get proper parliamentary representation.
The meeting concluded with lunch in the Commission restaurant where we discussed what further steps might be taken by the various groups to both assist the Commission and to increase pressure on the UK government. There was total unanimity amongst all present to change the Representation of the People Act amended as soon as possible.
Labour International Coordinating Committee (LICC) meeting with the Electoral Commission, 6 August 2013.
LICC members held a meeting at the Electroral Commission to discuss issues pertaining to expatriate voting in UK elections. See the full report on Labour International web site – <click here>.
LICC members present at the meeting were (from the left) Dick Smith, Lorraine Hardy, and Dalvir Singh.
The recent attempts in the House of Lords to get the 15-year limit on electoral registration lifted were thwarted in the debate in Committee. The Amendments to the Electoral Registration Bill proposed by Lord Lexden were eventually withdrawn after some extraordinary speeches by some Lords. Lord Lexden withdrew his amendment after being offered an inquiry into political representation of expat citizens.
Lord Lexden will chair an Inquiry into the whole question of Representation including establishing Members of Parliament to be elected by expat UK citizens in a similar manner to the French system. This promises to be a good solution to our political isolation from UK parliament. This is important because so much of our lives as expats is decided and controlled by the UK parliament. For UK pensioners, public service pensioners and others who pay tax in the UK; for UK passport holders; for UK citizens whose health care and social welfare is the responsibility of the UK government, this will give some leverage when problems arise and policies are being discussed. It may also give us an opportunity to participate in crucial debates and referendums on our future within the EU.
The campaign for MPs to represent us has started.
You aptly reported all day on the 400,000 thousand French citizens living in the UK for whom 30 polling stations were open to cast their votes in the French Presidential election. In London, the 6th French city in the world, you showed thousands queuing up to vote and interviewed the French Ambassador to the UK. He underscored that the million French diaspora citizens are close to France, sharing the same tough issues as those living in France. They are also interested in schools, the international role of France, and ‘like everyone else in my country’ their concerns are roughly the same – unemployment and current crises, Does not the same apply to the millions of British expats who lose the vote after 15 years’ abroad?
The Home Office’s argument that after 15 years’ away, they are deemed not be connected to the UK and could change nationality, over-rides their human and civil rights in which the UK is out of step with its peers and out of conformity with international obligations. That right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the British Constitution. The right to vote without time restrictions is wholly consistent with relevant international instruments. However, unlike many other countries, the UK is one of the most restrictive in depriving its expatriates of these democratic rights. British expats are also part of our community representing a core value of globalisation. They share their cultural heritage with others and constitute a rich, global network of resources and new energy to tap. Surely they deserve the same consideration as French citizens abroad?
Check out www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
Dr Sylvia Moore (M.Litt Oxon)
British global professional, resident in France