Voting in the UK?

In the interest of balance I would like to offer a counter view to the few ex-pats who insist on maintaining a vote in the UK.

In 2015 just under 2% of UK ex-pats were registered to vote but it seems that they are a very vocal few. I am forever seeing notices or letters urging me to register.

So, this is a made up interview with Mr X who, although he does not exist, could share the views of the 2% of ex-pat voters. It is a bit tongue-in-cheek & is not meant to offend or insult, just provoke thought. (And stir things up a bit!)

Hallo, Mr X, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can we start by asking you how long you have lived in France & why did you decide to move here?

Yes, of course. My wife & I moved over here about ten years ago when we took early retirement. We have had holidays in France over the years & fell in love with the south west. We love the countryside & pace of life plus the price of houses compared to the UK meant that we could buy a very nice property.

Do you miss anything about the UK?

Well, we do miss our children & grand kids but they come & stay as often as they can. As you can see, we have plenty of room & the kids love the pool! Apart from that we were quite happy to make the move. We do not miss the traffic & crowds. People are so much more polite here but it took us a while to get used to the shop opening hours! Fortunately we have Sky TV. I like sports so I can watch the sports channels just like in the UK.

You want to continue to vote in the UK despite living here. Surely if you vote anywhere you would prefer to vote in the country you actually live in?

Well, our pensions come from the UK & our children are affected by the UK government so we want to have a say there.

Don't your children have their own vote? Perhaps they should be able to vote in France to support you? After all, what the french government do will affect your life far more than the UK government.

That may be so, but I can't be bothered to jump through the hoops required. The welfare of our children is important to us. I assume that they would vote the same way as me.

So you are happy to live here & just accept any new taxes, laws & policies the french government might impose? Or do you feel that french laws do not apply to ex-pats?

Not at all, that would be silly! We can cherry pick the bits which benefit us most & moan like hell when that does not always work. Take the Winter Fuel Payment for instance, we are lobbying to have that reinstated. We have paid in to the system all our lives - it is ours by right! It's part of our pension.

Is it? I know you have to be a pensioner to get it but you still need to claim for it separately. Surely if it was part of your pension it would not be a "benefit" or be paid separately? It comes under 'Heating & housing benefits' on the Government web site.

Yes, but losing it has made things difficult for us. It really made a difference!

It was 300 pounds a year. Your Sky Sports cost 540 pounds a year, you have 2 cars & you eat out at least twice a week. I suggest that as yet you do not have to choose between heating one room or eating cat food. Do you not feel that to claim for aid that you in all honesty do not need is a little unsocial? It means that those who really do need the help find that the financial cupboard is somewhat bare.

But it is ours by right, we are doing nothing wrong!

Agreed, you are not. And let's face it noone is going to turn down free money. I admit that if I was eligible I would be tempted to claim. The way the government set the parameters initially was wrong. If the WFP was means tested it would have gone much further & to stop it by looking at average temperatures was misguided. If one really needs help with heating why not ask the french government? I believe they have a similar system?

I would not know how....

To return to the voting issue, there is a law which prevents foriegners from contributing funds to political parties. This prevents those from overseas influencing UK domestic government. Do you not think that anyone who has lived overseas for 15 years or more should also have their influence in what would be now considered the "old" country curtailed? The only things British about us is the passport we hold & the language we speak. If we really loved the UK we would be living there. Many arguments against this can be used to make the point that we should all have the right to vote in ANY other country in the world. What the US decide to do can very quickly affect the rest of the world so why not demand the right to vote there?

That's different, we do not have links there...

How do you feel about the referendum about the EU?

That IS difficult to answer as noone seems to know what would happen to us if the UK left.

Which way would you vote?

I think to stay in. I would not feel comfortable in a country that might decide that they do not want us here.

Thank you. My feeling is that in or out, the status of most of us will remain much as it is but we would see less new UK migrants heading this way, particularly those who do not wish to cut the apron strings.

I think the 98% of those not registered to vote in the UK are probably quite relaxed about the whole issue.

We are indeed what our lives have made us, David.

Now I am in the UK visiting the family, and will be spending the weekend with younger son and his Spanish girlfriend with whom he has bought a house in Brighton. No doubt we will spend a lot of time discussing her and our fears, hopes and questions about the Referendum, Brexit and the future, and it will be interesting to hear the Spanish attitude to UK politics.

Looking forward to catching up with the rest of you next week!

I understand your point, Peter, however we all have to plan for our individual circumstances. What would I do if I were diagnosed with terminal illness? or if I lost my husband? or if one of my sons were dangerously ill in the UK? I probably couldn't sell my home in the Jura within a convenient period (houses tend to be on the market for years) and it wouldn't buy as large a house, but at the moment I don't have to worry because we have our UK property and if the proverbial does hit the fan then we wouldn't need such a large place in the UK now. Our situation is not unique: we planned our retirement in France, sold up our original UK property and moved across while still fit enough to turn the ruin into our home. We had money in the bank, no debts, a reasonable income and no need to find work, and our sons were grown up and independent. That makes me sound complacent but it is what we planned and the plan worked, with the low risks we were prepared to accept.

We would not have moved to France with the intention of working here, we would not have moved while our children were still at school, we would not have bought or started a business in France. We wouldn't have had the guts to do what so many others have done, and these are the families I am concerned about post Brexit. They face the uncertainty, the red tape and the potential and unwelcome changes which, so far, cannot be predicted or quantified. These are the people who need to be asking questions and whom we all need to rally round, in the hope that all the money and effort they have invested does not come to nothing.

Pensioners can always return to the UK, present themselves to Social Services and explain that they are now homeless and need somewhere to live. I have known several widows who have done exactly that when living alone in Spain in a villa they couldn't sell became intolerable. As last resorts go, it doesn't appeal, but it exists.

David Cameron keeps talking about Brexit being a "leap in the dark". Well, I made such a leap ten years ago, and landed firmly on my feet. I can only plan for things I can influence, and I will do all I can to continue living in my home in France, whatever the UK or French govts do after the Referendum. It is sad that no goverment department shows any interest in the fate of their nationals living, working and sometimes struggling within the EU.

Obviously not- having had a house longer here than anywhere else- since 1972 in effect. I just happen to believe that in an open Europe (how much longer?) persons should not be disenfranchised for any reason. I don't have the appropriate votes in France so naturally I want them in the UK, my country of origin.

Thank you Tony Marwood; just an illustration of the reasons I am proud to be British but grateful that EU membership made it possible to retire to France. We are all what our lives have made us.

Ex-pat used to imply that a member of the family was working abroad, having been sent there by their employer. One friend's son was born in Bahrain while she was there with her husband, a partner with one of the big six accounting firms, then they were moved with his work to Jersey, then to the UK where I met them for the first time. The term "ex-pat" used to indicate that it was not a permanent move. However I think the press stated to talk about ex-pat Brits retiring to Spain and the term came to mean the same as "immigrant" as someone who has moved to another country for good.

What's pompous about it? Are you living in France because you hate it?


I don't want to stop anyone voting. I do want to stop people insisting that it is something I MUST do! I politely discourage Jehovah's Witnesses on the same basis.

The EU referendum will make little difference to us (we will have to wait for the answer to that one!)

I have a carte vitale.


Of couse we are not foreigners - "Foreigner" noun - A person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own. We are British!

Dedicated MPs to represent the interests of expats - weren't they called MEPs?

"If we really loved the UK we would be living there!"- what a pompous statement.

I used many decades ago to be on Central Office's candidates list, ran companies in London, and was elected Chair of a successful Quango for 10 years. I have family and investments in the UK. I served albeit briefly in the forces.

Which of course doesn't sound pompous at all.........................

Ex-pats are nicer ;)

Ex-pat? Immigrant? What is the difference?

I agree on a first look but given that it needs all 28 to agree on it and given the strains that are already showing it looks to me as if it will increases the strains within the EU which are already approaching a critical level. A bit like cooling moulded glass too fast - once the critical stress is exceeded it explodes without warning.

PS Did you just hear DC on UK's position on free movement of Turks - "In your dreams" Dave!

Diana, I know the Jura well, more the Swiss side than the French but a lovely part of France.

You are fortunate that you have a home to return to.

Now suppose you didn't and you had to sell up your lovely home in the Jura, what would that buy in the UK and where.

Nothing comparable is the obvious answer.

And yes we have looked.

So much as we would like to in some respects, in practical terms we can't.

I suspect many expats are in a similar position.

No what it portends is ever closer coordination of members of the EU.

Every crisis so far has shown up the inadequacies of the existing political structure of the EU

The Brexiters fantasize that this means the end of the EU

The pragmatists know that the bureaucrats in Brussels will do anything to prevent that and that inevitably means ever closer union.

Hi Brian

Of course we have to remember that HMG's output on this is highly partisan and presents any uncertainty (of which there is a lot as nothing is strictly "known") as overwhelmingly negative and talks up the "achievements" of the "negotiations" as if UK had any real influence in the outcome (apart from in withdrawing anything likely to be difficult to achieve).

Why has no one considering simply repudiating the Treaty instead of relying on Article 50. It would certainly be a quick answer to any obstructive tactics in negotiations over withdrawal and not unprecedented in International relations..

As you know I have strongly supported payment of WFP to UK citizens living in France both on the grounds of "natural justice" and in opposition to the frank Gerrymandering of the figures by IDS which reflects no credit on him, his department or HMG. As I am resident in Cyprus (Limassol) where winter temperatures are rarely below 17C (much lower in the mountain villages of course) I cannot in all honour argue against its withdrawal for myself.

This is interesting - could it presage the beginning of the end?

Actually I am quite surprised by the HMG's objection to repealing the 15 year rule in time for the referendum. If SFN is any guide then the EU expats would be very likely to vote to remain - however misguided I think they are - so since this is HMG's position it would be a good idea to repeal the rule SAP so they could register and vote in the election. I suspect Diana that the result will not affect you or I very much so we can both relax. It is much more important to our children (and theirs). All will be revealed in the end but it will be 10 years before we will know who was right and that will still mean we will have to speculate on the other result.

Look at the numbers Diana. We have more money than almost any other group in UK. Politics is about votes and money. You can't vote in France so its comes down to money and you are a good buy. The French have always been very pragmatic - look at how they deal with EU rules!

I'm hoping that you are right, Michael, however I'm already 64 and aware that our ageing generation is unlikely to be popular wherever we choose to decay!

Glen, I have no idea how UK residents or expats will be affected by Brexit, but agree with you that expats should be able to vote, although whether those who retired to Australia or elsewhere outside the EU will fully understand what's going on is unclear - those of us in the EU are having enough of a job getting our heads round it all. I do feel that of all the UK electorate we are probably the best informed insofar as we experience Europe every day of our lives and most of the UK population just think they do, and this may in part explain the UK govt's disinterest in hearing from us.