David Cameron takes UK voting pitch overseas with appeal to Britons abroad

About five million UK citizens live overseas

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron encourages British citizens overseas to participate in the July 4 general elections. AFP
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UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has urged Britons living abroad to register to vote in the July general election by June 18.

He called on British citizens to use their lifelong right to vote in the July 4 election, saying decisions on foreign policy, defence and trade will directly affect their lives.

About five million Britons live abroad, and this year's election will be the first that more than half of them will be eligible to vote, after a law removed a 15-year cap on their rights.

This affects up to three million citizens living abroad who have either lived in or been registered to vote in Britain.

The UAE is the most popular country of residence for expatriates after Germany and Spain, with 240,000 British people resident in Dubai alone, according to the Expat Insider 2023 report.

“Britons living overseas are flying the flag for Britain abroad, and nearly all of them retain a strong interest in the UK,” said Lord Cameron.

“Now, thanks to this Conservative government, all of them can vote in the general election – no matter how long they've lived abroad. So, I encourage them to sign up to have their say.

“It is so important to do this because this summer's general election will be one of the most important in our lifetimes. With threats rising across the world, Britain needs a clear plan and bold action.

“We are living in a world more dangerous, more volatile, more confrontational than most of us have ever known. We need to face up to that fact and act accordingly.

“We have committed to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] on defence by 2030 and we've led the world in our support for Ukraine. Here at home, we've got inflation down, we've got a growing economy and we've been able to cut national insurance. The ship is much steadier. ”

The Elections Act 2022 amended the law to remove the 15-year limit, introducing “votes for life” for Britons abroad.

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The act also extended the registration period from one year to three years. Secondary legislation to enforce these laws came into effect in January.

The change in law came after a challenge raised by Harry Shindler, a Briton who fought a 20-year campaign to end the 15-year limit on voting rights, taking the case to the European Court of Justice.

Mr Shindler, who died in February aged 101, said the UK was “not a complete democracy” until all British people were given the right to vote.

To register, British citizens must provide their national insurance number and last UK postcode.

Their votes will be counted at the last UK address they were registered to vote at or lived at, and they can exercise their democratic right to vote by a trusted proxy or by post.

Who can vote

You must be either a British citizen, or an eligible Irish citizen registering to vote in Northern Ireland.


The first step is registration.

In Northern Ireland, registration is completed by a paper form but it can be done online for the rest of the UK.

To register, British citizens must provide their national insurance number and last UK postcode.

Local authorities, which are responsible for the electoral roll in their area, must be able to verify their identity and connection to the area.

Contact details for the relevant local council are available via the commission's postcode tool by entering the postcode of your last address in the UK.

Votes will be counted at the last UK address they were registered to vote at or lived at.

How to vote – proxy or post

After registration, voters can choose whether to vote by proxy or post.

The government recommends anyone who lives abroad to apply to vote by proxy if the election or referendum is less than two weeks away.

This means you will ask someone who is already a registered voter to vote on your behalf. They must be eligible to vote in the election and bring their ID.

Updated: June 04, 2024, 8:05 AM