The UK’s Referendum on the EU: Making your Vote Count
British Expats in the Czech Republic can vote in the EU Membership Referendum if they register by 7th June
I’m an expat from the UK living in the Czech Republic, one of over 10,000 British expats who chose to live in the country now known as Czechia, and part of the 2 million-strong community who decided to make their home outside of the UK in an EU member state. Our group of expats is going to have the most at stake from the upcoming referendum on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU, as our right to live, work and travel across the 27 EU member states may well be impacted.
After all, it is directly or indirectly thanks to EU membership that millions of British citizens have been able to travel to Europe each year, taking advantage of cheaper flights, the right to access public healthcare in the destination country, and, from next year, cheaper calls back home, as phone roaming charges across the EU are going to be abolished. Just to give a few examples of what the EU does for us expats. There are arguments about whether much would change in reality if the UK left the EU, however it has been pointed out that there are no guarantees Brits abroad would keep these benefits if the UK left.
It’s important, then, to make sure our voices are heard, one way or the other, and to take part in a decision which will directly affect our future. And we can. Many expats believe that, when they leave the UK, they have forfeited the right to vote in British elections, or that it’s not technically possible when you’re abroad; however this is not the case. If you’re a British citizen and have been outside the UK for less than 15 years, you have the right to vote in national elections, including the EU referendum on 23rd June. Fix that date in your minds, folks.
The only caveat is, you need to ensure you are registered to vote, i.e. that you are on the electoral register of the local council where you used to live, and that you are eligible for postal voting.
To do this, you need to do the following 3 simple steps:
1. Complete the online registration form at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
2. Then you should go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk, print off a postal vote application, complete the information and sign the form.
3. Scan the completed application and email it to the Electoral Registration Office of your local Council (the address will pop up automatically on the last page, do you don’t need to look it up yourself).
Don’t worry if it sounds complicated, I did it myself and the whole process took five minutes!
You can also get someone else to vote by proxy: on www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk you can print off and complete a proxy vote form and send it to the Electoral Registration Officer at your last local authority. Alternatively you can contact your Electoral Registration Officer to request a form in the post: you can find their contact details by entering your latest UK postcode on www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
Whichever way you choose to vote, it’s important that you register in time: the final deadline for registering new voters is Tuesday 7th June. You are strongly advised to register by 16th May. It is better to think 2-3 working days ahead to take into account the time it takes for post from the Czech Republic to reach the UK. The first batch of postal ballot papers will be sent to all registered overseas voters between 23rd and 27th May, however more will be sent after registration is confirmed right until the final deadline.
If you are unsure whether you are on that Register - do not assume that you are! You need to register each year - if you registered for last year's General Election and haven't registered this year, you will need to register again. You can find out the status of your registration by contacting your local Electoral Registration Officer at your last UK local authority (their details can be found by searching for your last UK post code or local authority name at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk).
In the last general election in 2015 only 109,000 British expats registered to vote, a small portion of those eligible. We can improve on that record! Expats who care about their future and Britain’s place in the world must register to vote as soon as possible. Every vote will count and expats may well hold the balance. You can find more information about registering to vote at: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register-to-vote/british-citizens-living-abroad
More on this topic: Brexit – Britain’s 2016 EU Referendum - Prague.TV 03.03.2016
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