What British expats in Spain need to know about the Brexit referendum

British embassy says UK voter registration site is receiving 1,000 hits a day from users in the country

A couple in Fuengirola, a favorite area for expats.
A couple in Fuengirola, a favorite area for expats.David Ramos

British expats who wish to vote in the June 23 “Brexit” referendum have until June 7 to sign up on the UK Government webpage.

UK nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in the UK in the past 15 years are eligible to vote.

The deadline to register for a postal vote is May 16. Voting papers will be sent out in the week beginning May 23, according to the British embassy in Madrid.

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The embassy also reminds people that if they miss the May 16 deadline for a postal vote, they can still register online at Register to Vote but will need to choose someone in the UK to vote for them.

On Friday, UK ambassador to Spain Simon Manley urged British expats to vote.

“Whether your view is that the UK should remain in or leave the EU, I urge all eligible expats to register to vote in this historic referendum,” Manley said at an event in Málaga, adding: “It is for the British people to decide whether we’re stronger, safer and better off as part of the European Union, or on our own.”

Manley revealed that the UK voter registration site is receiving around 1,000 hits a day from users in Spain.

Long-term British expats denied Brexit vote

Patricia Tubella, London

The UK's High Court has confirmed that around two million British nationals living throughout the European Union will not be allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum to be held in the United Kingdom on June 23 to decide on Britain's future in the 28-member bloc.

The court notes that under UK law, only British nationals living abroad who have been on the UK electoral register in the past 15 years will be able to vote either by mail or proxy. The same rules apply to all other electoral processes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The ruling was in response to a legal challenge by two long-term British expats, Harry Shindler and Jacquelyn MacLennan, who live in Italy and Belgium, respectively, and who argued that British law restricts EU freedom of movement legislation.

Polls suggest that many UK voters are still undecided as to how they will vote, meaning that expats could play a crucial role. An early April survey by expat website Angloinfo, conducted among 2,800 UK nationals living abroad, shows that up to three quarters want to remain in the EU.

The UK government says two million British people living abroad are eligible to vote on June 23. A further three to four million expats would be able to vote if it were not for the 15-year rule, which critics are calling arbitrary and undemocratic.

According to the British embassy in Spain, nearly half of British expats who are eligible to vote in the UK still remain unaware that they can go online to register, according to Angloinfo. There were around 300,000 Brits registered in Spanish local rolls in 2014.

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