Plans to give expats in Europe their own MP
Expats living in, and moving to Europe could get their own MP under a new plan proposed by Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. The plans are similar to measures already in place in Parliaments in Europe and would mean that votes placed by expats would be counted towards their new locality rather than the constituency where they used to live. France, for example, has a constituency that covers Northern Europe which represents French people living in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia.
British expats living in Europe can currently vote for up to 15 years after leaving the UK. However, the new plans would entitle people to vote for an indefinite period after moving to Europe. Alongside the plans for overseas constituencies, Nick Clegg has also proposed lowering the voting age to 16, a special seat for the speaker of the House of Commons and allowing two people to ‘job share’ in collaboration for one seat. The idea is set to form a big discussion point at the next Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.
More than five million Brits are currently living abroad, but it is not known how many people have lost the right to vote because of the amount of time they have spent living overseas. Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, has said that: “The right to vote is one of the fundamental political rights of citizenship. It is part of the very fabric of democracy.” Ms Reding further commented, “Depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country is effectively tantamount to punishing citizens for having exercised their right to free movement. Such practices risk making them second-class citizens.”
Earlier this year, Second World War veteran, Harry Shindler was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in recognition of his campaign for UK expats to keep the right to vote. Despite losing the battle to convince the European Commission to back his case at the European Court of Justice, he was very instrumental in highlighting the issue to the British government.