It’s an issue that has been debated time and time again – the fact that Britons lose their right to vote in the UK after 15 years of living overseas.

Article written by The Overseas Guides Company

Protest groups have been formed, cases have been taken to the European Court and as yet – no solid decision has been made as to the rights of all British expats. That was until this week when the European Commission threw a lifeline to those expats fighting to have their right to vote restored.

In a press conference last week to present the 2013 EU Citizenship Report, Viviane Reding, the Commission Vice President announced that they will seek to help Britons who live abroad to keep their right to vote after the 15 year period is over.

She commented: “The practice in some member states of depriving their 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.”

Although the EU has no legal power that means it can force the UK to change its rules, the Commission’s actions will effectively put pressure on the countries that currently remove their citizens’ right to vote. As well as in the UK, this happens to Irish and Danish expats after the same time period.

The main argument for removing their right to vote was the idea that after 15 years living overseas, they will have lost ties to their home nation. This has now been hailed as an old-fashioned opinion that according to Giles Goodall, Chair of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats, “is simply no longer valid in today’s world”.

You may recall a number of high profile cases on the matter being in the press recently – perhaps most prominent was the case of 91 year old war veteran, Harry Shindler, who has been campaigning tirelessly to get back his right to vote after being a long term resident of Italy. Unfortunately his case was unsuccessful.

Although the Commission’s actions do not necessarily guarantee that the rights will be restored – it is most certainly a step in the right direction.

For more information about emigrating abroad, download The Overseas Guides Company’s free Emigration Guide

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