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Slow Uptake of Brits Abroad Registering to Vote – But Many Say They Will Vote to Kick Out Conservatives

Newly empowered overseas voters tell Byline Times they are ‘sick of racist rhetoric’ and Britain’s Brexit fallout.

A People’s Vote march in 2018. Many Brits in Europe will be voting this year on the basis of Conservative and Labour Brexit policy. Credit: Guy Corbishley/Alamy Live News

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Just 16,000 of the estimated two million overseas Brits who were handed the vote last week have so far registered to vote. But several of those who have signed up have expressed their anger over the Government’s record on Brexit, public services, and sleaze. 

Applications tailed off slightly over the weekend but the first two days of all Brits living overseas getting the franchise saw 10,000 registering to vote in this year’s General Election.

It comes after the Government scrapped the 15-year time limit on Brits living overseas still being able to vote for MPs. 

Over three million Brits living abroad will now be able to vote in this year’s General Election, the Government estimates. 

Concerns over the Government’s motive for the extension of the vote will have been heightened by the Guardian reporting over the weekend that the Conservative party has hired an overseas voter registration coordinator to “mobilise thousands of supporters who live abroad to vote in target seats the party needs to win at the next general election to stay in office.”

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When Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman was asked by Byline Times last week if the party had any plans to ramp up overseas voter work, the Labour official was noncommittal and appeared uninterested. 

Byline Times has spoken to many new overseas voters who feel strongly about the election – with many saying they will be voting on issues of Brexit and the Government’s approach to migration. 

Jane Golding and Fiona Godfrey, co-chairs of the volunteer-led, non-partisan group British in Europe, which campaigned for the extension of the vote.

They point to a 2020 University of Sussex study backed by the organisation which found that over the three General Elections from 2015 to 2019, EU-based expatriates show a clear trend against the Conservatives. “The decline of the Conservatives is little short of catastrophic,” Golding notes, citing the paper.

Emma O’Mahoney, 46, lives in Ireland and is registered to vote in Warwick. She will be voting tactically in what is a “very safe” Conservative seat. “It’s too close to call between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in that constituency at the moment but it will be between these two parties.” 

O’Mahoney previously worked in the UK supporting social housing tenants. “I left in 2020 and the cuts that the Government had made had a massive impact. We worked really long hours. [It was] very difficult to get vulnerable people access to support across the board as everything was so under-resourced. 

“It was at the point that if further cuts were made then the services may as well close as they wouldn’t be able to offer the support needed,” O’Mahoney says. Her son, who has autism, also suffered from a lack of resources for children with additional needs, she adds.  

“Every time I come home I feel that the country has deteriorated a bit more and is more run down. The homelessness levels are frightening as well. It feels like everything is slowly grinding to a halt.”  

Register to Vote Applications – UK vs Overseas Over the Past 10 Days

O’Mahoney describes the Rwanda deportation policy as “cruel and barbaric”: “The rhetoric coming from the Conservative party is dehumanising and it frightens me at times.” 

Gold pro teacher Patrick Corden 63, lives in Switzerland and is a British passport holder. He registered to vote in Reading “straight away” last week after receiving an email about it. Asked how he will be voting, he tells Byline Times: “It won’t be for the Conservatives for quite clear reasons.”

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Justin Harding, 50, lives in the Netherlands, moving in 2002 when a tinplate plant in Ebbw Vale (Wales) closed down. He’s won his vote back, having lost it seven years ago. 

He adds that “Dutch people still can’t understand Brexit” and will be voting Labour. “I’m sick of constantly reading about corruption and greed related to this government. The racist rhetoric is sickening and based on lies. The standard of Tory politicians has never been lower. 

“Take Lee Anderson for example – telling people that if you earn £80,000 per year you don’t need another job – then trolleying up on GB News…” He’ll be voting in Labour-held Ebbw Vale. 

On X, Viki Tracey told Byline Times, she is registered to vote and will “either fly to the UK to vote or appoint a proxy” on polling day. She worries that the post between the US where she lives and the UK is “super slow” and could scupper her ballot. 

“I will vote Labour. I despise who the Tories are and what they have done to the country.  [There was] Cameron’s catastrophically weak Brexit referendum decision, and disastrous austerity, Johnson’s innumerable lies and malevolent incompetence, the Truss/Kwarteng ram-raid budget and the jingoistic populism of Badenoch, Rees-Mogg and Patel…They should all be run out of Westminster.” The Oklahoma-based Brit will be registered in the London borough of Wandsworth. 

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Paul Craig, 53, lives in Switzerland and will be voting in Scotland – for the SNP “unless Labour change their position on EU, Single Market and freedom of movement within EU.” 

He’s lived outside the EU for 18 years now and will be getting his vote back. 

“UK elections can have huge impacts on overseas citizens, as Brexit proved. I can no longer return to the only home I own, as it is in Germany, but I was living and working in Switzerland during Brexit and not eligible for residency in Germany post-Brexit. As a family, our right to vote is very important to us. 

“The kids were one and five when we left Scotland to go to Germany, which became their home. My eldest is now at university in the UK, but her [Swiss residency] permit will expire when she graduates – and unless she has a job in Switzerland by then she will not be able to live here again. She’s been here for 10 years. She cannot easily get work in the EU now.

“So having only lived in the UK for five years she is now basically limited to finding work there, post-graduation. Her brother will finish school here in two years. We’re seriously considering citizenship for him as it’s the only way to keep his options open.” 

Craig adds that the Brexit fallout “definitely causes stress” for the family when looking to the future: “It’s very different to the amazing opportunities my wife and I had.” 

He ends by noting: “I am absolutely not an expat! I am a migrant, an economic migrant and proud to have made a contribution and learned so much from my host countries. [For that] I am extremely grateful.”


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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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