Having recently given interviews to wetheeu.com and to thelocal.at, which will both appear online in due course, one of the questions that seems to have figured in both interviews as well as in conversations about the referendum with friends, both in the UK and Austria, who have been apathetic and asked why I am trying to persuade people to register and vote in the UK’s referendum, particularly given the fact that I am unlikely to return to the UK to live or work. A selection of the reasons I have given are below:
- Voting in the referendum is an expression of your democratic right to vote. I’d prefer people spoil their ballots rather than not vote at all. Not voting and then complaining about the outcome of the referendum is unacceptable.
- A UK citizen living in Austria has limited opportunities to express their democratic rights – living in Vienna, I am able to vote in local elections and European elections, but not the mayoral election for the Mayor of Vienna (due to the fact that it is also for a Landtag function, for which only Austrian citizens are able to vote).
- Expat votes, and more importantly a high level of votes returned by expat voters, are vital to ensure that the debate on overseas voters (and hopefully the removal of the 15 year rule, in place of allowing voting for all UK citizens) is continued – and hopefully that the restrictions are removed.
- Voting in to stay in may help to secure continued voting rights for UK citizens – otherwise in the event of the UK reaching a decision to leave the EU, expat voters, unable to have any say in politics in the UK will also not be able to vote in their host nation in certain elections.
- You vote does not only affect you – voting to stay in the EU will also have an effect on the future of your children, in particularly where your children are only British by descent, and who will not automatically be able to pass on their citizenship to their children. This is particularly important for dual nationality families, for whom only one parent holds an EU citizenship, for their children’s ability to be able to work under the freedom of movement.
- Regardless of where you live as an expat, you still remain a UK citizen, and therefore if eligible to vote, should do so. The referendum, unlike a general election is not about a manifesto of issues, or local agendas on a constituency level, but is a straight yes/no matter, affecting all UK citizens regardless of where they live.