M.P.'s for Ex-Pats? Discussion on the Today Programme

Given the democratic right to universal suffrage, I agree that with the free movement of citizens within the EU it should not be necessary to change to the nationality where you are currently resident in order to vote at national level. The old concept/definition of the expat (which you take exception to) is also becoming blurred with the concept of the European citizen of the EU. Contributing to this blurring of the expat definition are for example the estimated 750,000 British workers who through the benefit of advanced communications and convenient transport links, are managed offshore from the UK on shorter term assignments averaging 5.4 years away. In theory these should be considered overseas voters but I am sure this is not reflected in the Electoral register.

I agree that we need both approaches, each being likely an uphill struggle to convince those empowered to do something about this lack of democratic representation within the EU.

I did not say that, did I? I am an extremely active political person and so never hide my head in the sand, so accusing me is very unastute... I repeat in slightly different form, I am not living in a nether world.

Sorry, Brian, they are not just hiding their heads in the sand!

This time it is good to agree 100% and I am certain other people do too. My reply to Brian Cave below his comment below this is what I feel and I am fed up to the back teeth of the British (and only the British but not the Frencch or anybody else) telling me what I am and ought to do. I am not a sheep, thank you, to those people, simply a human being with a free mind and will.

I DO NOT wish to jump through hoops to change or become a dual national at all. It is just another bureaucratic nightmare. So point 1 is uninteresting.

The rest of it applies to people who live in a nether world. They need to get real lives!

Let's not start agreeing about everything again Brian but you've put my thoughts across far better than I did! and I only use "ex-pat" here on this forum, it's a concept and a label that mean nothing at all to me either (I see it as rather negative and pejorative and it gives the idea that the people are squatters in another country!)

Replying to Brian Milne. I am trying to be very clear in my thinking.

1. In France and most other EU countries (though not Denmark), one can possess dual citizenship. Therefore Brian Milne can request French nationality without renouncing British nationality. This is a long winded process. Our 'femme de ménage' came to France from Portugal. She took French citizenship eight years ago and it cost her nothing but it took three years to accomplish. You need to speak French and the French look into your past history to see if you are 'worthy' to be French.

2. Many expatriates have far stronger links to Britain and consider it important that they are represented. This and the above ARE NOT either/or situations. Some may want representation in both parliaments.

3. Some may not want any representation at all. IT IS NOT obligatory to exercise the opportunity to vote - i.e to be represented. To take the stand that no expatriate Briton should be 'represented' in Westminster [if that is your position] would seem illogical to me. I can't think you take that position?

4. All other EU nations except Greece and Ireland and Denmark and Britain permit permanent representation of their expatriates in their home State government. Can Britain truly claim to be part of the EU if it does not care for the diaspora of the British throughout? I follow the logic of that point next.

5. A fully aware 'representative ' means someone who takes pains to find out out what are your needs as a British Citizen who is also a European citizen, living in another EU country, subject to treaty regulations which are agreed on YOUR behalf by the British Government, i.e. subject to the tax and social security agreements, the rules on free movement and so on. You may be oblivious to these rules but they probably affect you now or later. If Britain dropped out of the EU then these treaties would certainly change and the expatriate could be affected. Examine Regulation 883/2004 and 987/2009 and you will see. You can google these.

Nationality is a political device that has nothing to do with who each of us is. It is, for instance, a useful tool if a country wishes to have a war and needs to drum up support and brand those disagreeing as 'unpatriotic'. I find that so transparent I cannot believe in it in any sense. How can I with dual nationality children living in a third country (as they did before in Wales actually)? If they choose to stay here then for life they will be French to all intents and purposes, like your children. I do not want people telling me what I am. Indeed I am a Scot and proud of that, but then I have met xth generation Scots all over the world who are proud of their ancestry and on 25 January will celebrate Burns' Night, yet many of them may not get a resident's permit in the UK too easily. Come on you patriots just admit that those of us who are here and want to be here and are going nowhere are right. I am registered for the communal vote and can, in fact stand as a member of council and as of the near future could even be Maire. I am also registered for the EU vote. I simply want the rest of the package and my right to contribute to the country I live in. To hell with where my pittance of a pension will come from in a couple of years. Those issues are NOT the same at all and that argument is beginning to get on my nerves because it has been constructively used as just that but scratch and look closer and see what it is really about - purely an administrative issue but not a directly political one. I also object very strongly to being referred to as an 'ex-pat' as though I had any patriotic connection to England and its satellites. I do not, I live here as I have lived in several other countries in my life and this is where my life is. So Andrew, let the ones who want to be 'ex-pats' stuff that in their pipe and fume at me for telling the truth!

I'm with Brian on this one - I wouldn't have a clue who to vote for in the Uk anymore because I don't know what's going on there anymore. As for the situation here in france, I accept it as it is because I can see their point in that "if you want a say/vote then apply for nationality and all the acceptance that goes with it". Is that a fair position - not really in a european union where we're meant to be 'at home' where ever we go but it's a very french one ;-)

On a personal note I've never needed nor sought any form of representation as an "ex-pat" or Englishman in France. Somehow I feel that if you leave the UK to live elsewhere then your life is elsewhere and, unless you're going to be going back there, that's where you should be voting and wanting a say?

So, I take it you agree we need both, which is what I am advocating but only for choice not to use both at the 'same time'. My view is that by pushing for both the political message is more likely to get through any way, as too my political and international organisation lobbying experience has often proven.

Fair enough, Brian. I have encountered many like yourself on various expat forums who have in their own minds cut themselves off from the UK (or their country of origin similar to your Dutch, German and Italian friends) and I have no problem with that. My point is that e.g. in France they appear to have a pretty good system of representation for their own expats and,therefore, do not see what is in it for them to solve the expat representation problems of other nationalities and especially us Brits.

I have serious reservations about voting for people who DO NOT represent the constituency where I live and apart from that doubt the effort be worth it. I shall not renew my UK voting rights and, to be quite honest, since I shall not be living in the UK again see no mileage in it. Look at how many people share that view in this string of posts and you see a division down the middle. I am asking that people try for both options. As for other countries doing better, I have bothered to ask Dutch, German and Italian citizens I know over the last few days and essentially things are not really better, they too want to vote here and NOT in their home countries. So do what you must but you ARE NOT doing it for all of us. As with so many things in the UK it is by no means representative and favours a particular point of view only.

As the administrator of the website www.votes-for-expat-brits.com I much appreciate Jane's support for Brian Cave and also for her letter to Lord Lipsey. Another of the latter's assertions was that the French system of having MPs to represent expats was no example to follow as the French were always changing according to which party was in power at the time. He didn't mention that the UK could be accused of the same by its own expats, the time limit on expat Brits being able to vote being increased from zero to 5 years in the mid 80s, then subsequently extended to 20 years before being reduced to the current 15 years, depending upon whether Labour or the Conservatives were in power at the time. If Lord Lipsey is worried about the additional cost of expat MPs in these straightened times, the current system of voting in the existing constituencies can also be maintained as a first step, with only the 15 year limit on expat voting removed.If you then discount Lord Lipsey's objection from the tax standpoint as has been argued by Brain Cave, this peer is then basically just against expats having the right to vote at all, once all his obfuscations are removed!

Given that France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc within the EU all have (presumably) acceptable voting solutions for their expats, while the UK, Ireland and Greece are the odd ones out, I don't believe an EU-wide, "portable" voting system allowing you to vote nationally where you are resident is likely to happen soon. Your votes in support of our voting rights campaign on our on-line sign-up poll (on our website) would also be much appreciated although we are not expecting to get anywhere near the 100,000 of the more populist causes posted on the HMG e-petition website, the comments from dissatisfied expat Brits around the world being also of importance.

Oh yes siree. I also forgot one gem. When in the UK last year I said what I got from Barclay's France that they do not offer there and was told that since Barclays is one company with a single policy that such things as online direct transfers to other countries was not part of company policy and therefore I ws mistaken. I told the man, in full view of other customers and in a very cool manner, that if he insisted on inventing bnaking policy on the hoof his name would be noted and a complaint made to the CEO of his company. I told him to find out, not me, because I was right. I walked out there and then and observed the faces of other customers looking out for somebody else to deal with them...

I can go and live in the Philippines but one has to realise that there one is COMPLETELY cut off from the sort of society and culture that one has become used to. Prob is if you get ill (and it's not really an if) the chances are you snuff it through lack of suitable cover or availability. My wife's village is 1/2 hour to port than about 3 or 4 hours boat journey (when available!) to a decent American style hospital. Or you go down in a blaze of glory!. Not sure if they have a tax man there and there's no health service for sure. I've done the drawings for the house and we have the land and it's above tsunami level but only about 5 miles from active volcanoes never mind the typhoons! I wouyldn't get the vote there mind you and councilors like my father in law have to carry arms as attack/kidnap is likely. Maybe the lack of a vote is not so important after all! Wine is min 15 euros a bottle so I drink rum or distilled coco like the natives!

I have registered with Brian Cave's site already as it seemeed the most hopeful albeit it's a longshot. Incidentally my wife had a problem with the Prefecture and Service des Etrangers and I went to our senateur who was thoroughly helpful and we got more than we had been asking for as a result!

Amen to that - you have obviously had the same treatment from UK banks and companies that I have experienced over the past 20 years. I would love to vote for a local French representative - it is the only logical solution. Sadly, I cannot obtain French nationality and vote as the French authorities took all my wife's documents from her when we arrived, and subsequently demanded "originals" from me when they already had them in one of their bureaucratic establishments! Nothing would budge them on that lack of logic either!

I think we are split down the middle on this issue. Some of live here and want representation here. The solution may be to do as Jane suggests and join Brian Cave's action but those of us who wish to have French representation should join forces to write to each of the presidential candidates in the forthcoming election and express our dseire to join the French political system as voters. It can extend to any EU citizen, French supporters and anybody else without a clearly accessible route to that end. One letter, many signatures, a copy to each one of them and let us see. If as much as one of them replies then hooks in and follow through.

If not, then a lot of us will not join in and support the UK MPs for ex-pats petition and the energy will be wasted.

I can only say that I hope you all read Brian Cave's post and go to VotesforExpatBrits.com and register your vote there.

Also get in touch with your UK MP if you are registered to vote in the UK or Mark Harper MP, who is trying his best to get something done abpout this anamolous situation.

France, I now find, already has senators representing its ex-pat community!

Well go down the road of having toothless pseudo-representation, but I doubt whether between complacency, distaste and the division there is here you will collect even half of the signatures required. I certainly would not sign to have UK MPs for ex-pats and looking over the opinions here, if it is representative, then it is the less palatable of the two choices.