What you need to know about voting in the crucial European elections

The UK on Tuesday confirmed that it will be taking part in the upcoming European elections, so here's what you need to know about voting and indeed which country to vote in.

What you need to know about voting in the crucial European elections
In a surprising development, the UK will now be taking part in European elections. Photo vepar5/Depositphotos

Can I still vote in the UK even if I live abroad?

Yes, provided you have been out of the country for less than 15 years you are entitled to a vote.

The deadline to register as a new voter has already passed, as has the deadline to register for postal votes, but there is still (just about) enough time to register for a proxy vote.

If you are already on the electoral roll in England, Scotland or Wales (the deadline has already passed for Northern Ireland) you can register for a proxy vote and ask someone else to cast your vote for you. Your proxy needs to live in the constituency you were last registered to vote in, but there are no restrictions on who that person can be (family member, friend, neighbour, former colleague, it's up to you).


The deadline for registering for a proxy vote is 5pm UK time on Wednesday, May 15 and you can register here.

Where do I vote, in the UK as a UK citizen or in the country where I live?

Basically it's your choice. EU nationals living in another country can choose whether to cast their vote in their original homeland or – if they are already on the electoral roll there – their adopted home. 

What you cannot do is vote twice. In the words of Bucks Fizz, it's time for making your mind up.

READ ALSO Who can I vote for in France and what are the big issues?

OPINION: The déja vu of the European election polls masks a dangerous game in French democracy 

Polling day varies from country to country

When are the European elections?

The elections take place between Thursday May 23rd and Sunday May 26th, depending on what country you are in.

For example in the Netherlands and the UK, voting will take place on May 23rd while in France polls will open on Sunday 26th.The results won't be announced until polls close in the last countries to vote.

These European elections were not supposed to involve the UK given that they were due to leave the EU on March 29th and then again on April 12th.

The country has been given an extension until October 31st, but if it had got a deal sorted before then, there was still the possibility that it would not be involved in the elections.

However Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the BBC on Tuesday: “Given how little time there is, it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that's legally due for the European Parliamentary elections.

“We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted… so that those elections did not have to take place, but legally they do have to take place unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect.”

Why would I want to vote in the UK?

Do you want to register your anger against Brexit? Then read on.

Generally, European elections in the UK have had an extremely low turnout – just 35 percent of people voted in the 2014 European elections – but this time it could be different. Europe is the issue that has convulsed the entire country for the past three years, polarising opinion among voters.

This is likely to lead to a higher turnout, and polls have also indicated that voters could use the European elections to punish the Conservative party for the ongoing Brexit mess. Some polls are even predicting that the Conservative party could come in sixth place.

Paradoxically, the anti-Europe party UKIP has previously done well at European elections and the party returned 24 MEPs to the European parliament in 2014. This time former UKIP leader and current MEP Nigel Farage has created a new 'Brexit' party, which is polling high, while UKIP is predicted to take eight percent of the vote.

On the other hand the pro-Remain party Change UK – recently formed from disaffected Tory and Labour MPs and lead by Heidi Allen – the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are all standing on anti-Brexit platforms.

While voters still seem a long way from being given the chance to vote in a second referendum, the European Elections are increasingly being seen as a way voters can at least punish those individuals and parties who backed Brexit and show their desire to remain part of Europe.




Member comments

  1. Much as I appreciate The Local’s reporting and advice to expatriates, I take exception to the idea that all European Britons must oppose Brexit. I, as far as Brits go, am as European as they come. I have lived and worked for 37 years in EU countries other than the UK, I speak three European languages apart from English and have had three wives, all from EU countries other than the UK.

    And yet I campaigned for Brexit. Why? Because the EU-concept is fundamentally flawed, and always has been.
    The blueprint for what is now the EU was drawn by two Frenchmen, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. Having seen that Germany, principal beneficiary of the Marshall Plan, was set to regain its position as the economic powerhouse of Europe, decided that the best way to counter this development was to create a Common Market, starting with coal and steel. This might enable France to exercise joint hegemony with Germany over the rest of Europe.

    German Chancellor Adenauer put a stop to that idea and drove Germany to the pre-eminent economic position it enjoys to this day.

    Those who took on the task of transforming the ECSC into the EEC, then the EU, failed to understand that a supra-national structure in Europe had to be underpinned by harmonization of taxation and social security. Nor did they address the issue, at the heart of Brexit, of how much sovereignty individual nations could, or should, surrender to a supra-national governance.

    Brusselization, to use the term coined by the German journalist Jochen Bittner, allows Great Britain to be largely governed by unelected EU commissioners (not that Britain’s own elected representatives in the Commons are doing a particularly good job). This is unacceptable.
    Of course, the current situation is entirely the fault of David Cameron. Yes, it would have been better for Britain to remain in the EU and reform it from within. Yes, he would have done better to approach Chancellor Merkel with his shopping list for Britain before she became distracted by a migrant crisis of her own making. But, not only did he decide to put British membership of the EU to a referendum (fair enough), but he reduced the question to a simple Yes or No without making a British withdrawal conditional on any form of agreement with the EU. Had he qualified the Leave vote in some way, the referendum result would probably have been a small majority for Remain, as Cameron expected.

    There is no need to be put off by the prophets of doom. There are 167 countries in the world which are NOT members of the EU. After Brexit there will be 168.

    I currently live in Florida. But the US is fast becoming a banana republic, so I am thinking of returning to France (which is also a banana republic but the only one in which you can get a decent steak tartare/frites), because France is the source of most of my pension income.

    Yes, Brexit will cause me some personal inconvenience. But it the right solution for Britain.

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For members


‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres


Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said.