British expats could ensure the UK remains in the EU
Two thirds of eligible British expats will vote for the UK to remain in the EU at this month’s EU Referendum, according to a survey by Expat help Centre.
The survey which asked British expats around the world about their voting behaviour found that while 12% remained undecided, only 25% would support Brexit.
Robert Hallums, founder of Expat help Centre, believes the expat vote could yet prove crucial “Despite many expats being unable to vote, with the referendum too close to call, hundreds of thousands of British expats could yet cast the deciding vote – and they overwhelmingly want the UK remain in the EU.”
“More importantly, the complete lack of planning from the Government which would underpin any exit strategy has not been forthcoming, creating a vacuum which has subsequently been filled with guesswork and uncertainty. This has made it nigh on impossible for the majority of British expats to side with any decision other than remain at this point in time.”
The Referendum which will be held on June 23rd, is likely to have a major impact on expats not just in the EU, but around the world due to currency fluctuations, uncertainty over the UK economy and in the longer term, tax and visa requirements. It’s possible that due to the financial and economic impact of a Brexit vote, many expats could be forced to return home.
With a shameless battle being fought in the UK, it’s vital not to discount the role that British expats could yet have on the outcome, even though up to a third of expats no longer have the vote due to the 15-year rule.
Key influences on voting behaviour
As with many voters in the UK, 79% of British expats do not believe there are enough facts being presented during the various debates – and of those looking to vote leave only 29% believe they have enough factual information to make an informed decision.
Key to the outcome will be the ability of either side to persuade those who remain undecided about which way to vote. For the undecided British expats, their decision will be based on their understanding of the benefits that being a member of the EU brings.
When asked to score the primary factors which could influence their decision, expats rated the benefits of EU membership as the most important factor with an average score of 8.5 out of 10. They also felt that trade agreements were equally important.
The financial impact of EU membership was seen as least important with membership fees only scoring 6.4 and currency fluctuations scoring 7 out of 10.
British expats “silenced”
According to Robert Hallums the crucial expat vote has been swept under the carpet. “The decision whether the UK should remain in the EU or Brexit will impact British expats living in the EU more than anyone else.”
“It’s incredible that the Conservative Government has not only back-tracked on their promise to abolish the 15-year rule, but they are also silencing hundreds of thousands of voters who could be crucial in determining the outcome of the EU Referendum.”
“If David Cameron and other senior members of the Remain campaign were serious about wanting to remain, the fact that they continue to turn their backs on tax paying British expats is nigh on criminal.”
Expats who participated in the survey agreed.
Anne, a British Expat living in France, said “I’m a British citizen but have no ‘right’ to vote for the simple reason that I have been living in France for over 15 years! But there’s no problem when it comes to paying taxes in both France & the UK!”
Harry, who also lives in France, is deeply concerned about the impact of Brexit and likened the referendum choice to potholing stating, “It is a very worrying time for us not knowing what is going to happen, which leads me to an analogy of a potholer faced with entering a pothole he knows well, albeit there are some hazards along the way, OR entering an undiscovered pothole and finding all manner of hazards, getting stuck, and not being able to get out again!!”
James, an expat in Singapore, has been disgusted at how both sides are running the campaign, and despite wanting to remain, does not like the idea of supporting Cameron, “I am pro staying in. However, the referendum will be based on personalities and nothing to do with the questions asked. By this I mean we have constantly seen Cameron scaremongering, rather than stating precise facts.”
He also brings into question why Irish expats living in the UK have a right to vote as “it is not part of the UK” and has a relationship with the UK which is “no different to France or Germany”.
Another expat living in Germany, Elisabeth, has also been shocked by the campaigns, especially interviews by Boris Johnson who she believes is “playing to the masses and anti-German press” while likening him to Donald Trump.
While it’s hardly a surprise that British expats would seek to remain in the EU, but their voice should not be underestimated. In most cases they not only pay tax in the UK, but have contributed for many years to a system which has made every effort to silence their voice.
And yet, with the result of the referendum too close to call, hundreds of thousands of voting expats could yet have the final say on the outcome of the Referendum later this month.
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