A former Banbury man now living in Spain has called for assurances that ex-pats’ interests will be protected if Britain votes to leave the European Union.
Roy Parker, a retired engineer, who lived in Milcombe but moved to Spain, said a ‘15-year rule’ already prevents around a fifth of the five million Britons living overseas from voting in UK parliamentary elections - if they have lived out of the country for that amount of time.
He is concerned that only those who have been living outside the UK for less than 15 years will be entitled to vote in an EU, in-out referendum - while the consequences of leaving Europe would force Britons living on the continent to consider returning to the UK.
“A Votes for Life Bill, which will scrap the 15-year rule, was announced in the Queen’s Speech last May, but has yet to be tabled in Parliament,” he said.
“The Referendum Act has already cleared Parliament and been made law as of December 17. It allows those who, on the date of the referendum, would be entitled to vote in a parliamentary election in the UK, the right to participate in the in/out vote on the EU.
“At present, this only includes British ex-pats who have been away less than 15 years. With the referendum looming by the end of 2017 - and potentially as early as this year - ex-pats in Europe who fall under the 15-year rule are keen to get their voting rights restored beforehand, so they can vote.”
Mr Parker says a Brexit could impact on ex-pats’ right to live and work in the countries in which they now live.
“If I and many otheres are forced to return to the UK , can you imagine the impact on the UK. Would I be classed as an immigrant or a UK citizen and have rights to housing, bus passes etc, something the UK does not currently pay for?”
Mrs Prentis said: “I know the Government is planning to bring forward proposals to change the 15-year rule.
“I don’t know when this will happen but I have promised to make enquiries. Mr Parker raises an interesting point.
“I support the Prime Minister’s renegotiation efforts. Once the talks conclude, I am sure we will all have a much better understanding of the impact any change will have on UK citizens here and overseas. I will certainly look closely at what is on offer.”