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Expats didn’t ‘abandon’ UK so ALL Brits should get EU vote

The notion that long term British expats don't deserve the vote in the EU referendum, because "they already voted with their feet by leaving the country" is completely skewed, argues Ben McPartland.

Expats didn't 'abandon' UK so ALL Brits should get EU vote
Photo: AFP

Tens of thousands of British expats living in the EU were left furious and frustrated on Thursday when news came through that they won’t be able to vote in the EU referendum.

Despite being the most affected by the outcome the High Court in London basically thought they were not worth the rigmarole of overturning the rule that bars those who have lived outside the UK for 15 years or longer from voting.

Almost as disappointing as the actual verdict was the response of some Brits who seemed only too happy to see their compatriots barred from voting.

Their views, which were the same as those aired before last year’s UK general election could be summed by the line: “Well, you turned your back on the UK, so you should have no say in its future.”

Because millions of Brits had left the country of their own free will, to pursue jobs or lovers or just to rest their weary legs in a place with guaranteed sun after 35 years earning their crust in the UK, then Britain was of no concern to them anymore.

“You already voted. With your feet,” read one message.

Another one read “Live in France, pay taxes in France, vote in French elections. UK has nothing to do with you.”

Except that it does.

While I firmly believe EU nationals should be able to vote in elections in the country they live rather than were born in, Europe is not quite ready for that yet, nor are many longer term expats who will always feel more tied to Britain than to their adopted country of France, Spain or wherever.

While some tell them to “go native” and get French or Spanish nationality, the reality is that many can't due to language or time restrictions and some simply don't want to out of pure principle.

That’s because many of these expats – or immigrants as we should be called – who live in France, Spain or elsewhere spent most of their working lives in Britain.

Many who moved abroad taught in British schools for their whole lives or in British hospitals, serving the British public. Their children still live in Britain and their pensions are paid by British state.

Some still have property in Britain.

They don’t pay taxes in the UK? Well they did for most of their lives and many continue to pay taxes on their pensions in the UK.

(And if its only about taxes, are these people outraged that all the French, Germans, Poles and other EU nationals paying their dues in the UK are barred from the referendum?)

So you see, they really do have something to do with the UK.

But the main point here is that this is not an election, it’s a referendum one issue, that being Britain’s place in the EU, and so directly impacts on the lives of the British nationals living in the EU.

It’s arguably Britain’s most important referendum in history and far more important than a general election to British expats.

Yet whenever we talk about the vote lockout you get the impression Brits who moved abroad are thought of almost as traitors. We are accused of wanting the best of both worlds: the sun and the sangria in Spain, but also a say in what goes on back home.

But British expats should not be blamed or punished for simply taking advantage of the rules of the EU, that Britain signed up to.

We were encouraged to move freely throughout the EU. We were encouraged to look abroad for work or love.

We’d be forgiven for thinking these rules would be permanent, given that moving abroad is no easy feat, but now they are at risk, at the very least we deserve a say in whether things change.

What makes it more galling to those expats who can’t vote is the feeling that their lives could be hugely affected by British voters who have no real idea of or interest in the benefits of the EU.

That may be unfair, but that’s the problem with referendums and David Cameron has to answer for that if things go awry.

And Cameron has more to answer for than that.

In the run up to last election his party promised that if the Conservatives won the election they would scrap the 15-year limit on voting, because they too believe it’s unfair.

His party had over a year to get the change through parliament, but failed to do so. They could even have made an exception by allowing all foreign UK residents to vote by making an exception in the referendum bill, but declined to do so.

That’s why long term British expats feel let down.

The reality is Barack Obama looks like having more of an influence on the Brexit referendum than tens of thousands of British nationals, who will remain locked out of the vote.

That's a travesty.

 

 

 

 

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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