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UK ELECTIONS

EXPATS

Why most UK expats will shun general election

The deadline for registering to vote in the UK general elections is fast approaching, but not all UK expats will be casting their vote. We talked to Brits around Europe about why they will be voting – or not.

Why most UK expats will shun general election
British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband (R) and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (C). Photo: Dan Kitwood/POOL/AFP

On May 7th, millions of people will head to the polls in the UK General Election.

But for various reasons, a large proportion of the 5.5 million UK expats living abroad will not be casting their vote this year, The Local learns.

In some cases, expats said they felt the vote did not concern them and their lives as they were no longer living in the UK.

Simon Kilby, a British citizen who has been living in Vienna for the past six years told The Local: “I will not be voting, I see no point as I am living in another country.”

However he added that he does vote in European and local elections in Austria as they affect him directly (expats are allowed to vote in local elections in their adopted country).

Germany-based expat Adrian Robinson said: “I am no longer resident in the UK, and do not pay tax there. For me the government (regardless of politics) are no longer interested in me as a citizen.”

Like Kilby, Robinson said that he nevertheless took an active interest in the local politics in his adopted country because it has an impact on him.

Andrew McDonald was simply disillusioned by UK politics altogether.

"I am a British citizen and live in Italy but won’t be voting either here or there. No party has policies for me. They are all liars who just fill their own pockets! And cover up everything!"

For David Thompson in France, his decision not to vote was less complicated. “No, too much hassle. Besides I've not got any faith in anyone to vote for!"

But not all expats were singing the same tune, with some saying the UK elections were relevant to British citizens living abroad.

“As a British citizen living in the EU this election affects me as a large part of the electoral debate at the moment is focused on Britain's position within the EU, with potential referendums," Dan Purchase, an Austria-based Briton told The Local.

"I consider Austria my home and I have no plans to leave but I feel it would be dangerous to sever my ties to the UK," he added. "If the UK voted to leave the EU, they would obviously want to be part of the EEA which would allow a continuation of the free movement of people we currently see. But there is no guarantee that the EU would agree to this – especially in the animosity of a 'break-up'."

British expat Michele Fowler told The Local Spain that she is registered and will vote by proxy, a system which she describes as “more reliable than a postal vote, which doesn’t really give sufficient time if there is a delay on delivery."

Of course, not all Britons are eligible to vote due to the so-called ’15-year rule’ that prevents expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections.

"After serving for 17 years in British government service abroad, we lose our right to vote after 15 years," Roger Owen told The Local. "Now there's gratitude."

Speaking to The Local previously, voting rights campaigner Harry Schindler, who has been living in Italy for nearly 30 years, said: “There’s no question that we’ve loosened our ties to the country.

“We have family and friends in the UK, we go backwards and forwards. I can get to London quicker by plane than an MP can from [the English city] Carlisle.”

Other Britons contacted by The Local were not even aware that they could vote in the UK elections with several requesting information.

"I am a British citizen, cannot vote here and was not aware I could still vote in the UK," said Italy-based expat Simon Carey.

Currently, as few as 20,000 people – a tiny fraction of the 5.5 million eligible expats – are signed up to vote in UK elections, according to the Electoral Commission.

With this in mind, the UK Electoral Commission has launched a recruitment drive to get some 100,000 Brits to join the voting register by April 20th, the registration deadline.

So if you’re one of the number who want to vote from abroad but simply don’t know how then here are some guidelines: 

How to register:

Since the elections last May, all UK expats can now register to vote online, making the process a whole lot simpler.

You just have to complete the registration form online here.

But bear in mind that to be eligible to vote you must have been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years.

If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered then you can still register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.

All you need to fill in the form is your National Insurance number and your date of birth. If you’ve lost or forgotten your National Insurance number you can still register, but may be asked for some extra information by your Electoral Registration Officer. 

The registration deadline is Monday April 20th.

How to vote:

There are three ways you can vote from overseas: by proxy (you designate someone you trust to vote on your behalf in the UK), by post or in person.

If you want to vote by post, make sure you check that you will have sufficient time to receive and return your postal ballot pack. Postal votes will usually be dispatched a few weeks before polling day. For your postal vote to count, it needs to be received back by the Returning Officer by 10pm on May 7th 2015. If you live a very long way away it may be that a proxy vote would provide a good alternative.

For more information about the 2015 general election click here.

Will you be voting in the UK elections and if so how will you be voting? If not, let us know why. Please leave a comment in the comments section below.  

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EXPATS

From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France

Here are some tips for how to get your favourite TV shows and snacks whilst living in France so you can enjoy at least some of the comforts from home.

From TV to snacks: Tips for how to get your home comforts in France
Photo: AFP
There’s nothing quite like sitting down in front of the TV with a cup of tea and Mars Bar or Snickers.
 
But tuning into the your favourite shows or hunting down your favourite tea bags isn’t always easy when you’re living in France.

The easiest way to tune into English-language TV from your home in France is via a satellite dish. 

For Brits living in France, installing a dish and FreeSat box will get you up to 140 TV and radio channels from back home, so you can tune into the latest series of the Great British Bake Off without a hitch. 

You make a one-off payment and then you’re set – no contract necessary.

To set your satellite connection up and pointed in the right direction, get in touch with an installer such as The French HouseDD ElectronicsDigiTV Solutions or FreeSat in France

But if you don't fancy (or just can't) install a big dish on your house then watching TV via the internet is your other option.

There are sites like Film On TV, which used to be free, but now you'll probably have to pay to watch your favourite channels, although it still offers some programmes free for a certain amount of time.

Many expats have turned to VPNs (Virtual Private Network) for their laptops which essentially disguises what country you are in, so you can watch your favourite TV programmes online.

But TV companies like the BBC and Sky are cracking down on VPNs and making it harder for expats to connect. However the EU is putting pressure on broadcasters to allow people to watch TV no matter what country they are in. SO things may change for the better in the future.

Finally, British expats who split their time between the UK and France BBC iPlayerAll4Sky Go and ITV Hub all allow UK TV licence payers to download programmes and keep them for around 30 days. So you could stock up when you go home and settle into the sofa for 30 days when you get back.

American readers missing their TV shows will be pleased to know there's an option for you too. 

Digital satellite provider CanalSat will make sports fans very happy – it broadcasts ESPN so you never have to miss a baseball, NFL, and American football game again.

You can also tune in to CNN, NBC, and even catch The Tonight Show. 

As long as you don't mind waiting a few months after the programmes have been aired, a subscription to Netflix may be the perfect solution.. 

Netflix gives you access to its latest original TV series and many others, including shows from NBC, the CW, ABC and the BBC. 

Hulu's also a great alternative, with SNL, South Park, and Modern Family ready to watch at any time, from anywhere. 

Once you’re sat in front of your favourite series, the matter of finding your favourite snacks from home can be just as difficult. 

Some French supermarkets have world food aisles where you might be able to strike it lucky.

But more often than not they're a jumble of products and you never know what you might find. 

Brits missing out on Marmite, Cup-a-Soup, and McVitie’s biscuits can place online orders with websites like British Cornershop and Brit Superstore who deliver straight to your door. 

And if you're in Paris, don't forget there's always WH Smiths on Rue de Rivoli and the numerous Marks & Spencer outlets around town, which offe plenty of snacks and indeed some decent meals.

The American equivalents, My Little America and My American Market, also promise all the Pop Tarts, Hershey's and Lucky Charms money can buy. 

If you’re based in the capital, a trip to La Grande Epicerie in the 7th arrondissement will satisfy any food cravings. 

The upmarket shop has treats from America, the UK, Italy, India and Asia

But it will come at a cost: one can of Heinz baked beans will set you back almost three euros and a box of Froot Loops cereal costs €12.25. There is also the English, Scottish, Irish epicerie at cité de Vauxhall near Place de la Republique which offers English ales, cereals and sweets.

With the American holiday season coming up very soon, make sure to stop by Thanksgiving grocery store in Paris' 4th arrondissement (for the non-Parisians, there's an online shop too). 

Aside from New York bagels, Jello, and hot sauces, the shop stocks all the must-haves for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners: yams, cranberries, and turkeys, as well as home-made desserts. 

Amazon is also any expat's friend for finding the taste of home. 

But getting your family and friends to bring your favourite snacks from home is always going to be the least expensive, and most reliable, way to source your home comforts. 

By Anna Schaverien

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