In order to try to raise awareness of the Overseas Voter issue, particularly in light of the withdrawing of the Overseas Voters Bill after its second reading in the House of Commons, I contacted the MP of my last constituency, Rebecca Pow, to draw her attention to my plight. Ms. Pow is currently undecided on whether to back the “In” or “Out” campaign.
Before turning to the letter itself, it is worth drawing attention to one point that needs to be made if you are considering writing to your MP, which appears on the automated confirmation of response mail.
If you are a constituent please ensure that you have provided your full name and address, including postcode. There is a strict Parliamentary convention that MPs only deal with matters raised by those from their own constituency.
Dear Ms. Pow,
From your twitter feed I understand that you have had an extended period of absence through illness, and hope that you have had a swift recuperation and are well on the road to recovery.
I realise that you are probably being bombarded with all kinds of mails relating to the forthcoming UK Referendum on EU membership. I understand that you have yet to declare whether you are in the “in” or “out” camp – I understand that the issue is one of personal convictions – rather than there being a strict party line.
I write to you, however, to draw your attention to the potential ramifications of the 15 year rule with regard to UK citizens not resident in the UK being able to vote in the vital referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
I am exactly the kind of UK citizen who stands to be hardest hit by not being able to vote in the referendum. Since completing my university degree in Modern Languages in June 2000, I have forged a career in Vienna as a German-English translator, specialising in technical translation and latterly as an in-house banking supervision and resolution translator, currently being employed by the Austrian Financial Market Authority (our equivalent of the PRA and FCA).
I lost the right to vote in the UK having been out of the UK since 2000, and I appreciate that it could be argued that I no longer really bear the consequences of my vote, since I permanently reside and pay taxes locally here in Vienna. Since Vienna is the centre of my vital interests, I also vote here in local elections, and in European elections. However, due to the Mayoral election in Vienna also serving a role in the election of the assembly (Landtag) for the province of Vienna, I am not eligible to vote in that election and am also not eligible to vote in any Austrian general election, by dint of the fact that I am not an Austrian citizen. Dual citizenship is not a realistic possibility, therefore leaving me somewhat under-represented.
To deny me, a UK citizen with the right to permanently reside in another Member State, the right to vote on an issue that has far greater ramifications upon my day-to-day life than perhaps for some UK citizens living in the UK, is irreconcilable. I was therefore somewhat dismayed to see that there has been little progress on delivering upon the promise that is made in the Conservative Manifesto (p.49 bottom right hand corner) that the right to vote in UK elections will be restored to all British citizens living overseas, including those in other EU countries, currently prevented by the arbitrary 15 year rule.
I have followed the Private Member bill raised by your Rt. Hon. colleague, Christopher Chope, and learned through theyworkforyou.com
that the Overseas Voter Bill has been withdrawn after its 2nd reading in the Commons. Consequently, my only remaining hope of having a direct say in the vital referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU has been stymied.
The consequences of a “No” vote has a greater impact on the lives and futures of those of us living in other EU countries than on those in Britain. I have large numbers of friends and acquaintances who are debarred from voting under this rule, as I have been since last July. It is iniquitous that so many UK citizens living overseas will not be allowed to vote on something that is so vitally important to their futures.
There is enormous strength of feeling among the expat community in Vienna on this subject, with there having been considerable discussion within a couple of groups I am affiliated to – the issue of the UK potentially leaving the EU without the possibility of many UK citizens being able to vote on an In/Out referendum due to their living outside the UK for an extended period of time is alarming. To this end I am working with HM Embassy and various groups to promote voter registration among those who are eligible to vote. Naturally, the staff at the embassy cannot take a side, and can merely impress the importance of voting rather than not, as well as helping expats with information about how to register to vote. I am also blogging (www.michaelbailey.at/uk-referendum-2016
) from my perspective – it is early days still for the blog, but slowly things are starting to take off and I am getting more hits on the blog and more readers. Plans are in the offing to also raise aware through the University Alumni Clubs in Vienna. Sadly there is no “Conservatives Abroad” group or similar.
While I have no fears for my personal future in Austria should Britain decide to leave the EU – I do not fear an overnight deportation, there are others who do not have the level of job security that I have, and for whom the situation of living and working in Austria might not be so certain, in the event that the eligible electorate (it would be unfair to say the UK population or UK citizens at this point) were to decide to vote for the UK to leave the European Union.
I would also hope that I could count on my MP as taking an active stance it promoting a campaign for the UK of remaining in the European Union –
I feel that Taunton Deane as a constituency greatly benefits from the UK’s EU membership. I look forward to hearing from you and trust that I can count on your support.