Support the right of all UK residents, and of UK citizens living abroad, to vote in general elections and referendums.

What are we campaigning for?
Why 10 million?
How can we win?
Votes for wealthy expats?

What are we campaigning for?

The current situation

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to define who can vote in elections and referendums:

  • The citizenship principle, under which all citizens can vote. This is the norm in places like France and the United States.
  • The residency principle, under which anyone living in a place, regardless of where they are from. This was the case for the Scottish Independence referendum.

At the moment, the UK applies both of these principles, but neither consistently. Most citizens can vote, but not anyone who has been abroad for more than 15 years. Some residents can vote, but only those from Ireland and Commonwealth countries. EU citizens can vote, but only in local and European elections as a matter of EU law.

As a result of this, millions and millions of people are denied a vote in elections and referendums that directly affect their lives.

Our demand

Our demand is for the UK to apply both principles consistently, and to grant the vote to all citizens of the UK and all residents of the UK.

Adopting either principle in full while abandoning the other would actively disenfranchise either some residents or some citizens, and pit Brits abroad against migrants living in the UK.

Neither of the demands we are making should be regarded as radical, and both are winnable. By bringing them together, we can make the campaign for both of them stronger.

Why 10 million?

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory estimates that there are 9.4 million foreign-born people living in the UK. Approximately 1 million of these are Commonwealth citizens, and 400,000 are Irish-born. The rest – around 8 million – cannot vote in general elections and could not vote in the 2016 EU referendum.

There are around 5 million British people living abroad. 60%, or 3 million of these have been abroad for more than 15 years and so cannot vote.

Altogether, this amounts to more than 11 million people. We round down to 10 million to take account of factors like those not yet of voting age.

How can we win?

We are in the midst of a political crisis in the UK, a time of radical change and constitutional shifts. We are having a debate about our democracy, our place in the world and how we are governed. In this context, raising important democratic demands to extend the franchise makes sense.

Neither of the demands we are making should be regarded as radical, and both are winnable. By bringing them together, we can make the campaign for both of them stronger.

All residents having the right to vote no matter where they are from has been instituted before in the UK, in the Scottish Independence referendum.

All citizens having the right to vote no matter where they live is the norm in places like France, 21 other EU countries and the US, and abolishing the 15 year rule is actually already the official policy of the Conservative Party.

We will win our demands when parliament votes to change the law. Practically speaking, this means either:

  • Winning over a majority of MPs in the current parliament by getting them to sign our pledge; or
  • Getting support for our demands into the manifesto of the party that forms the next government.

Both of these require us to campaign publicly and lobby MPs. So get involved.

Votes for wealthy expats?

There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to British people living abroad.

But the vast, vast majority of Brits abroad are not tax dodgers, or second home owners. Brits abroad are migrants like everyone else, and leave the UK for complex reasons. Many leave to escape poverty or a lack of opportunities. Nearly 80% of Brits living in Europe are of working age or younger. In any given year, around a third of British emigrants work in manual or clerical jobs.

When they leave, they are still deeply affected by the results of elections and referendums, even to the point of losing their residency rights in the country where they now live. Many expect to return. Even those that don’t return are often integrated into the British pension and welfare systems, and often have caring and parental responsibilities at home.

But at the moment, millions of Brits abroad don’t get a vote. The worst affected are not those that choose to retire abroad, because many retirees don’t live abroad for more than 15 years. Younger economic migrants are far more affected as they reach middle age, as are their children.