• Sweden's news in English

Why most UK expats will shun general election

Sophie Inge · 4 Feb 2015, 13:33

Published: 04 Feb 2015 13:33 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

On May 7th, millions of people will head to the polls in the UK General Election.

But for various reasons, a large proportion of the 5.5 million UK expats living abroad will not be casting their vote this year, The Local learns.

In some cases, expats said they felt the vote did not concern them and their lives as they were no longer living in the UK.

Simon Kilby, a British citizen who has been living in Vienna for the past six years told The Local: “I will not be voting, I see no point as I am living in another country.”

However he added that he does vote in European and local elections in Austria as they affect him directly (expats are allowed to vote in local elections in their adopted country).

Germany-based expat Adrian Robinson said: “I am no longer resident in the UK, and do not pay tax there. For me the government (regardless of politics) are no longer interested in me as a citizen.”

Like Kilby, Robinson said that he nevertheless took an active interest in the local politics in his adopted country because it has an impact on him.

Andrew McDonald was simply disillusioned by UK politics altogether.

"I am a British citizen and live in Italy but won’t be voting either here or there. No party has policies for me. They are all liars who just fill their own pockets! And cover up everything!"

For David Thompson in France, his decision not to vote was less complicated. “No, too much hassle. Besides I've not got any faith in anyone to vote for!"

But not all expats were singing the same tune, with some saying the UK elections were relevant to British citizens living abroad.

“As a British citizen living in the EU this election affects me as a large part of the electoral debate at the moment is focused on Britain's position within the EU, with potential referendums," Dan Purchase, an Austria-based Briton told The Local.

"I consider Austria my home and I have no plans to leave but I feel it would be dangerous to sever my ties to the UK," he added. "If the UK voted to leave the EU, they would obviously want to be part of the EEA which would allow a continuation of the free movement of people we currently see. But there is no guarantee that the EU would agree to this - especially in the animosity of a 'break-up'."

British expat Michele Fowler told The Local Spain that she is registered and will vote by proxy, a system which she describes as “more reliable than a postal vote, which doesn’t really give sufficient time if there is a delay on delivery."

Of course, not all Britons are eligible to vote due to the so-called ’15-year rule’ that prevents expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections.

"After serving for 17 years in British government service abroad, we lose our right to vote after 15 years," Roger Owen told The Local. "Now there's gratitude."

Speaking to The Local previously, voting rights campaigner Harry Schindler, who has been living in Italy for nearly 30 years, said: “There’s no question that we’ve loosened our ties to the country.

“We have family and friends in the UK, we go backwards and forwards. I can get to London quicker by plane than an MP can from [the English city] Carlisle.”

Other Britons contacted by The Local were not even aware that they could vote in the UK elections with several requesting information.

"I am a British citizen, cannot vote here and was not aware I could still vote in the UK," said Italy-based expat Simon Carey.

Currently, as few as 20,000 people - a tiny fraction of the 5.5 million eligible expats - are signed up to vote in UK elections, according to the Electoral Commission.

With this in mind, the UK Electoral Commission has launched a recruitment drive to get some 100,000 Brits to join the voting register by April 20th, the registration deadline.

So if you’re one of the number who want to vote from abroad but simply don’t know how then here are some guidelines: 

How to register:

Since the elections last May, all UK expats can now register to vote online, making the process a whole lot simpler.

You just have to complete the registration form online here.

Story continues below…

But bear in mind that to be eligible to vote you must have been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years.

If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered then you can still register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.

All you need to fill in the form is your National Insurance number and your date of birth. If you’ve lost or forgotten your National Insurance number you can still register, but may be asked for some extra information by your Electoral Registration Officer. 

The registration deadline is Monday April 20th.

How to vote:

There are three ways you can vote from overseas: by proxy (you designate someone you trust to vote on your behalf in the UK), by post or in person.

If you want to vote by post, make sure you check that you will have sufficient time to receive and return your postal ballot pack. Postal votes will usually be dispatched a few weeks before polling day. For your postal vote to count, it needs to be received back by the Returning Officer by 10pm on May 7th 2015. If you live a very long way away it may be that a proxy vote would provide a good alternative.

For more information about the 2015 general election click here.

Will you be voting in the UK elections and if so how will you be voting? If not, let us know why. Please leave a comment in the comments section below.  

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophie Inge (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Facebook slammed for cutting Swedish breast cancer video
File photo of the landing page of the Swedish version of Facebook. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant removed a breast cancer awareness video because it deemed the images "offensive," according to the Swedish Cancer Society.

Pastor rapped for depicting rival as Nazi in church play
A different pastor. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The pastor allegedly found it funny.

In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home
This modern Gotland home was designed and built by two Swedes. Photo: United Frog Studios/AB

Anna-Lena and Johan designed and built their home with tall beautiful windows, a smart heating system, and a separate section for their greyhounds.

Cannabis worth millions seized at Swedish port
A file photo of a Swedish police cannabis find not related to the story. Photo: Polisen

The 300kg haul was found by in a truck which drove off a ferry in Karlskrona.

Roll over Volvo: there’s a new Swedish car in town
Photo: Björn Olsson

Car developers in Gothenburg have given Volvo a new sibling.

Thaw trip: Swedish PM Löfven heads to Saudi Arabia
Margot Wallström was at the centre of the 2015 diplomatic crisis. She will not join the Prime Minister on his trip to Saudi Arabia. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

There are fences that need mending.

Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
This shot of snow in western Sweden may not be as far away as you think. Photo: Johan Eklund/TT

...and it's still only October.

Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
The new rules are unfair, say Swedish IB pupils. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix/TT

A new system for converting the grades of International Baccalaureate students in Sweden will make it almost impossible for them to get into top Swedish universities, it has been claimed.

Education doesn’t always pay in Sweden: study
Nurses are paid less than a lot of non-college graduates. Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT

Half of Swedish graduates would earn more in their lifetime if they instead started work straight after high school, a new study shows.

What's On in Sweden
Five ways to discover something new in Sweden this weekend
Frank Zappa's symphonic works will be performed in Malmö this weekend. Photo: Anonymous/AP

From a performance of Frank Zappa's unheralded orchestral work to an intriguing combination of circus and opera, Sweden has some unique events this weekend.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Blog updates

8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »


6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
People-watching: October 5th
Must-watch: Incredible time-lapse video of Northern Lights in Sweden
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
jobs available