'Votes for life': Brits in Europe given boost as new rules finally published

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
'Votes for life': Brits in Europe given boost as new rules finally published
A man drinks coffee opposite Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, and the Elizabeth Tower, commonly known by the name of the bell "Big Ben", in London on June 15, 2023. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

British citizens living in Europe who had lost their electoral rights in the UK because they lived abroad for more than 15 years should be able to vote in the next general election, after the British government finally published new rules on registration and voting.


In April 2022, the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections for British citizens abroad became law.

The new law removed the rule by which Britons lost their voting rights in the UK if they lived abroad for more than 15 years. But the way new measures could be applied in practice - in other words details for how Britons could actually register to vote - still had to be defined.

On Wednesday new legislation was published that clarifies these important details. Now they need to be approved by parliament to allow Britons to vote in the next general election, that will be held before December 2024.

Fiona Godfrey, co-chair of the British in Europe citizens rights coalition said: "We are delighted that the government has made good on its promise to legislate on the voting rights of UK citizens overseas.

"We hope and expect that the draft secondary legislation will be adopted quickly and it looks like this will be in time for us to register and vote at the next UK general election. Voting is a citizenship right, not a privilege, and we intend to use it.

“This has been a campaign of decades and we wouldn’t have got this far without the hard work and tenacity of the late Harry Shindler. Three million future British voters overseas owe a huge debt to him," she added.


Under the 2022 law, Britons living abroad will have to prove they previously resided in the UK to be able to vote.

This may not be related to having been registered on the UK electoral roll, but could be determined with an automated match against Department of Work and Pensions records or documents provided by the applicant (for instance Council tax or utilities bills) or checks on local records.

If that is not possible, the Electoral Registration Officer may request a signed declaration from a qualified elector.


To register as overseas electors, Brits abroad will have to provide the same information as ordinary electors, as well as their current address, their British passport details and, if they have changed name since they were last registered in the UK, explain why.

If the electors were under 18 when they left the UK, and therefore may not have the documents to prove their previous UK address, they will be able to provide the name of a parent or guardian related to the address, and a birth certificate, or an equivalent document to demonstrate the connection to that person.

It will be possible to submit documents electronically, the draft law specifies.

In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year. Similarly, proxy vote arrangement will have to be updates up to every 3 years. Brits abroad should also receive reminders when declarations are about to expire.



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