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Who should vote where?

March 12, 2014 6:49 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

The article Breakthrough for Brits in Europe as Lib Dems back voting rights for expats originally published by Brussels & Europe Liberal Democrats which was on copied on this site on Monday 10 March has initiated a debate.

On Tuesday 11 March Cllr John Marriott replied:

John MarriottDear Sirs,

Is it just me or do other members feel a little uneasy about the prospect of expat Brits helping to decide the result of UK national elections?

My view is simple. By deciding to live abroad, for a variety of reasons, you forfeit your right to have a say in how we run our affairs back home. I lived abroad from 1970 to 1974 and, whilst interested in events back home - and momentous events they indeed were at that time - I accepted that I had no right to be involved, especially as I was not contributing to the national exchequer through my taxes. Just because France and Italy allow such voting does not make it right.

By all means encourage and allow Brits abroad to vote in elections in their adopted country; but, as many positively delight in slagging off the old country from their homes in the sun, perhaps, if they really care that much about us, they should do what I did all those years ago and come back here. Or, do they prefer to have their cake and eat it?

Yours,

Cllr John Marriott,

Lincolnshire County Council

George Smid 1Euro Candidate George Smid replied on Wednesday 12 March

This is a message from a Euro Candidate who is a naturalised Brit, who was an ex-pat and who could not have a meaningful vote for over half of his life. So, by definition probably not the standard answer.

According to English law, the right of British citizens to reside in the UK does not form the duty to reside here. Hence the ex-pats have the right to reside (return) any time and the UK has to accept them. The duty of accepting ones own citizens is universal and only very nasty states use it in arbitrary sense and often as a punishment.

Equally the right to vote is universal and is not limited by your temporary (or permanent) abode. To subject your right to vote by your residency in combination with your declared nationality would be a significant restriction. [In the UK this would additionally lead to the questionable practice of the Scots (English/Welsh/Irish) being allowed or not allowed to vote in England (Scotland/Ireland/Wales).]

As you pointed out most ex-pats intend to return. Hence equally the valued argument would be that they should be able to participate in the decision as to what type of country they wish to return to. If one is planning to return a year after an election should he/she be allowed to vote? If a year is too long, what about return after a month? A day? Surely if I return for a permanent stay on 23 May I should be allowed to vote in the UK on 22 May.

The present system of EU election allows all EU citizens to vote and they can chose where they wish to vote: in the country of their immediate residence (at the time of elections) or in the country of their nationality. But not in both.

Hence the right of EU citizens to vote in any other EU country is not limited to France or Italy. Some Poles feel strongly aligned to the UK and do take active interest in the UK elections, see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/11/eastern-europeans-migrant-workers-vote-uk-elections. Some will prefer to vote for Polish representatives back home.

I can see that the issue has a strong emotional resonance and in one sense it is a reverse of 'immigration': how far should the immigrants be included into their new country? How far should the emigrants be excluded? I believe that the current choice is a 'sensible' balance. It might not be the best or the most reasonable balance but it is something which does provide a reciprocal and fair arrangement.

Our aim should be to capture both votes: the ones who are newly (temporarily) out and the ones who are newly (temporarily) in. In terms of votes it is not IN OR OUT. It should be IN AND OUT.

Please let me know if I can help with this or any other European issue.

George

J G Šmíd
Lib Dem MEP Candidate East Midlands
Corby Local Party Chair
Regional Executive Member
Rose Lodge, King's Cliffe Road Wansford PE8 6NU
tel: +44 1780 782 303 mob: +44 7950 021 062 Skype: "georgesmid"

Cllr John Marriott has replied

Dear Mr Smid,

Thanks for getting in touch.

My position is straight forward. If you choose to live abroad, either for a short time or permanently, then you should not be allowed to vote here in local or national elections. If you are subject to your adopted country's laws, and that includes taxation, then surely that is primarily where your interests should lie. After all, if you live in Scotland you can vote in the upcoming referendum regardless of your nationality. According to your position, one would assume that all Scots living in England should also be allowed that vote - but they are not.

There used to be a phrase that went something like " no taxation without representation". I think it originated from the American War of Independence. If you decide to live abroad when you retire or to better yourself financially when still of working age I have no argument with that. In which case you should be allowed to vote in ALL elections in the country where you are residing. However, why should you have an influence, however slight, on the results of elections in which you have no moral or, more importantly, financial interest? You have made your decision so let those of us who stayed behind decide what is best for us here.

Back to the 'Scottish question" the difference here, if you discount the anomaly of citizens of the Irish Republic, is that, the last time I looked, the English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish were citizens of one country. I think it's called the United Kingdom and long may it continue!

We are currently hearing a great deal about the number of French citizens deserting M Hollande's France for more lucrative jobs abroad, most notably here in London. They even have a French MP to represent them. If I were a struggling worker back in France, I wouldn't be happy knowing that some fellow countrymen and women across the channel leading the good life could influence the result of my national election.

Sorry if I sound like a backwoods man, but that's how I feel. I wonder how many other Lib Dems feel the same way. I hope you enjoy the upcoming elections. I just hope all our MEPs are not swept away. I have to say that the espousal of such policies could play right into the hands of our enemies. It could be another 'Tuition fees' moment. I hope not.

Yours,

Cllr John Marriott