Pretty much every Brit abroad I talk to has got a bad dose of the Brexit blues. Many feel powerless, a lot have lost the right to vote and others feel our country is going to wake up on June 24th to the realization that voter apathy has just sleepwalked our children’s future over a cliff.
Now, I know not every expat shares my self-selecting sample’s anxiety. But if you do, then please read on. Here are five positive things you can do to help keep Britain in.
1. Register to vote
Now. Yes, this means YOU, pro-EU Brit who thinks we should stay in but also thinks they’ve got oodles of time to get their registration sorted. Think again, pal. The Electoral Commission is advising expats to register by May 16th so that there is plenty of time for mess-ups – sorry, admin – and time to organize proxies (often the more reliable option) and postal votes.
Can’t find your National Insurance number? Get on the blower to your former local council or Electoral Commission and find out what you need to do. You might think it’s a hassle…but then so is having to re-negotiate 40 years of trade agreements and a brand new social model that might exclude you.
2. Register someone else
This is really an extension of Point 1. But the logic still applies. Don’t assume (it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘you’ and ‘me’) that your friends and colleagues in other countries have got around to registering yet. Lots of Brits abroad work in international organizations with other British colleagues. Use your networks to mobilize their vote and get them to do the same. Get on the phone to them now.
Equally, work on registering young Irish, Maltese or Cypriot friends in the UK. Plus Erasmus students. They can all vote too but youth turnout in particular is expected to be low, as they have to register for the first time. You should preach the registration message until you are red, white and blue in the face. Pretty much all my friends now groan when I post something Brexit-related on Facebook. I consider this an achievement. Go forth and badger for Britain.
3. Inject some enthusiasm into the discussion
Don’t like Cameron? Failing to get excited by #Stronger In? In that case, why not make your own short testimonial video and send it to one of the many expat campaign groups? Our group in particular would love to hear from people who can inject some emotion and enthusiasm into the positive case for staying.
4. Donate to Stronger In
You may not identify with the designated 'Remain' campaign, but they are still our team and doing a very tough job. We also need to understand that for the past 40 years the hardcore Brexiters have been waking up fulminating about what Brussels has done to them. This is their time. The only way to counter this is to get behind Stronger In. As Bob Geldof might have said: Give them your f***ing money.
5. Take a week off and volunteer
The Remain camp are crying out for volunteers to do some good old-fashioned campaigning. Knocking on doors and handing out leaflets beats fighting with anonymous Brexiters on Twitter any day of the week. It is also much better for your mental health and can be an inspiring experience. I was heartened to hear from Liberal Democrat activists that most people are much more rational about the EU than the media would have us believe. Get out there and talk to people in an enthusiastic and inclusive way about why we should be ‘in’.
These are five practical, positive things that Brits abroad (including those who have lost the right to vote) can do to help.
So let’s stop moaning and get out there and make the case for staying. Let’s do more than ‘remain’. Let’s choose the EU.
Laura Shields is Campaign Spokesperson for Brits Abroad: Yes to Europe, a non-partisan 'get out the vote' initiative managed by the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats. The campaign has a Facebook page with up-to-date news about the debate. More information on the Brussels and Europe Lib Dems referendum campaign and practical advice about voting can be found by clicking here.