Theresa May has called the election, but thousands of Britons resident abroad will be unable to vote.

19-04-2017Stefan Wermuth, Reuters

Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to hold a snap general election on 8 June means British voters who have been in Majorca for over 15 years will once again be denied their say, after being promised they would have a vote.

Last year, the Tory government announced it would introduce a bill to scrap the unpopular 15-year-limit on expatriate voting rights in time for the next general election.

But after May made the shock announcement on Tuesday, it’s clear that the limit will not be ditched in time, meaning tens of thousands of long-term expatriates living in Spain and elsewhere around the world will not get a vote again.

British citizens living abroad, who had successfully campaigned against the 15-year-rule for many years, will no doubt be furious at the thought of not having a vote once again, despite being promised it.

Many long-term British expatriates were angry at not having a vote in the 2015 general election and in particular the momentous 2016 Brexit referendum which had a direct impact on them.

The Conservative government had included a pledge to scrap the 15-year-limit in its 2015 election manifesto and last year announced the "votes for life" bill would be drawn up. Yesterday, Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, who has for years fought for and defended the rights of Britons overseas, told the Bulletin: "Not surprisingly I have received a number of queries about the status of the ‘Votes for Life’ legislation proposed in the last Conservative manifesto.

"The commitment, made in good faith, was to have the legislation and supporting franchise infrastructure approved by the Electoral Commission on the statute book in time for a 2020 general election, and my understanding from Chris Skidmore in the Cabinet Office is that that process was on track at the time that the prime minister announced her intention to seek an election on 8 June.

"It gives me no pleasure to have to say that there is no prospect of this process being expedited, as some have sought to suggest, by the time that Parliament is dissolved on 2/3 May.

"Only agreed and non-contentious measures will be allowed to pass through both Houses of Parliament - and a ‘Votes for Life’ bill will have to go through both Houses before the House is prorogued. All other (contentious) measures will have to be carried over or reintroduced in the next parliament.

"The short answer to the ‘why was it not done sooner’ question is that the measure is contentious - it is not supported by the Labour and Liberal parties in an Upper House in which the Government does not have a majority. There is an additional complication, as explained to me by Chris Grayling when he was leader of the House, which is that the bill will be a franchise measure and, under the ‘long title’, amendable in the House of Lords.

"That House is known to want to extend the franchise to sixteen year-olds - a measure that is in itself contentious - and is likely to seek to use a ‘Votes for Life’ bill as a vehicle to achieve other objectives. The horse-trading process will therefore take time that is simply no longer available in this parliament.

"I am sorry to have to offer blunt and disappointing news but can only say that I, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and others who support the ‘Votes for Life’ cause, will seek to ensure that this is contained within our party’s manifesto and introduced as early as possible in the next parliament."

However, as the law still stands, hundreds of thousands of expatriates here in Spain can vote if they have been registered to vote in the United Kingdom in the past 15 years. If you are a UK citizen living abroad, you can apply to be an overseas voter. To register to vote in England, Scotland or Wales, you can register online in the same way as all other voters in Great Britain. Register online any time at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

To register to vote in Northern Ireland, visit the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland website to download the correct form.

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Richard Pearson / Hace 2 days

John, how can that be fair ? What about people whose job entails them working abroad for a period of time. I would like to know if all the people who are against British "expats" having the vote, actually live in the UK. And what is their opinion about Gibraltar. Are they against people there having the vote as well ? They still live near the Med and have lots of sunshine.

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Frank / Hace 3 days

@Richard Pearson. It would probably depend on your religion in that scenario, just claim you're a Muslim.

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John / Hace 3 days

Well, if I was French and living in France, I would protest the people not even livng in the country should have a say in that country's policies. It's wrong, clearly. After 6 months away, you need to register as living in your new country, and that should lose you your vote in the country that you've emigrated from. That's fair.

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Richard Pearson / Hace 3 days

Would I be wrong in saying that if a national emergency arose, all able bodied citizens, if they hadn't adopted the nationality of another country, would be eligible and called upon to defend their country, eg UK, or wouldn't their compatriots expect them to do so ?.

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Richard Pearson / Hace 3 days

The French have this right, why not the British ? .

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S.O. / Hace 6 days

Secondly having lived outside the UK for a very long time! I don't think I should be entitled to vote in the UK general election. I don't pay taxes there or contribute in any way so why should I have a vote? I would like to be able to vote in all of Spain's elections - these affect me far more. However to do this one has to apply for and obtain Spanish citizenship which is pretty logical when you think about it.

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S.O. / Hace 6 days

First of all those "who have lived outside the UK for more than fifteen years" are not "expats", we are immigrants like anyone else from another country. Please do not call me an expat! It sounds like the man on that video of the 'posh' British ghetto (his description) in Orihuela who said - I quote- "Expats are British. Foreigners are people of other nationalities who live in the UK. The British are never foreigners wherever they go"! Makes one cringe with embarrassment!

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Julian Simms / Hace 6 days

Is jealousy raising its ugly head ?

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Steve Palma Nova (Frank) / Hace 7 days

To Humphrey Carter: 'Plight of Expats" ? What the devil is an "Expat" firstly, - and what plight does the UK immigrant have while sitting on a beach here, or having a €6 menu in the sun. Most don't declare their world income here and they're still whinging. The UK pension was designed so you don't starve to death, not to finamce a retirement in the sun. The NHS was formed so that the poor would have medical aid, not for immigrants lazing in the sun in a foreign country.

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Steve Palma Nova / Hace 7 days

To Humphrey Cater: 'Plight of Expats" ? What the devil is an "Expat" firstly, and what plight does the UK immigrant have while sitting on a beach here, or having a €6 menu in the sun. Most don't declare their world income here and they're still whinging. The UK pension was designed so you don't starve to death, not to finamce a retirement in the sun. The NHS was formed so that the poor would have medical aid, not for immigrants lazing in the sun in a foreign country.

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