Dubai: British expats living in the UAE are ecstatic about a new ruling from the UK government granting voting rights to all its overseas citizens.
According to a report, an estimated 3.5 million Britons living abroad for more than 15 years will regain their right to vote in parliamentary elections in the UK. Earlier, Brits who left the UK more than 15 years ago lost their right to vote. However, this rule has now been abolished under the Election Act 2022. Affected British citizens will now be able to register in the last constituency they were signed up in before leaving the UK.
Gulf News spoke to a crosssection of British expats living in the UAE. Here is what they said.
Niki Wright, a public relations professional in Dubai, said she was elated to hear the news of Britons now able to vote even if they had lived away from the UK for 15 years. “It is fantastic that these long-time overseas British expats can now exercise their voting right. While living away from our home country, we are able to see things as an outsider that enables us to evaluate exactly what is happening in order to make a positive change for our country. I really do believe this will have a positive impact when it comes to election time.”
Richard Martin Everest, regional head of a commercial and legal company in Dubai, said: “As an expat who has been living overseas for more than 15 years, it is every important to retain my voting right. I work for a UK company and may return to the UK one day, so why should I not have the right to vote? As an overseas voter, I bring a different perspective. I would not characterise it as biased or unbiased but my perspective may be different to those who are in the UK.”
Stuart Thompson, managing director of a specialist security company, has been living in the UAE for the last 18 years. He has a different take on the new rule. “As a British national, I have always been able to vote in UK elections. For others, the issue of overseas voting came about from not registering within a required time frame, thus excluding them from voting. The only new change is the 15 years time limit. When living in the Middle East, we British stay in a clean, crime-free, progressive country aimed at the betterment of the people. Surely, British expats voting will have a global outlook while exercising their rights.”
Linda Middleton-Jennings, an office manager in Dubai, who moved to the UAE in 2012, said: “As I have been living outside the UK for less than 15 years, I have been able to vote whilst being here. However, I would have been affected in years to come so I am very happy with this new legislation.” Middleton-Jennings noted voting is a basic citizenship right regardless of where someone lives. “I still own a property in the UK and want to have a say in how the country I was born in, is run,” she added. She said every vote counts.
Alexandra Williams, CEO of a company in Dubai, said: “I am personally delighted by the news and with an additional 3.5 millions Britons now eligible to vote.”
Williams who has lived away from UK for about 10 years, observed: “This news has put Britain at par with the United States, France, Italy and New Zealand in recognising the importance of their citizens worldwide. My travels back to the UK every three months and I know many other families and individuals who do the same, so the political landscape really does affect most of the 3.5 million Britons living abroad.”