Liberal Democrats looking for new support have come out in favour of expats having the right to vote in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union.
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The party argues all British expats in the European Union and all Europeans living in the UK should have a say in the debate.
The decision, carried at the Lib Dem party conference in Bournemouth, makes the party the only major British political party supporting both EU and British expats to vote in the referendum.
The party also wants 16 and 17 years olds to have the referendum vote as well, following the lead set in the recent Scottish referendum on splitting the UK.
Giles Goodall, who chairs the Brussels and Europe Lib Dems, explained that around 2.2 million Britons living in other European Union countries are denied a vote in the referendum – and a similar number of European Union citizens living in Britain are also frozen out.
However, not all those 2.2 million British expats living abroad are denied the vote.
Who can vote
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens aged 18 or over living in the UK and expats who have lived overseas for less than 15 years can go to the ballot box.
“The other European Union countries are Britain’s trading partners, allies and friends,” said Goodall.
“They work, pay taxes and contribute to grant money spent in the UK like the rest of us but most of them won’t have a say about the result of this historic referendum because they are unable to vote.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has denied British expats the vote in the referendum despite an election manifesto promise of scrapping the 15 year ban on expats taking part in UK elections.
Current laws say that expats lose the right to vote if they have stayed away from Britain for 15 years.
What is a referendum?
However, he also announced that the pledge his pledge to change the law would not happen before the referendum, scheduled before the end of 2017.
The referendum is a simple Yes/No vote asking people if they wish the UK to remain as a member of the European Union.
The wording of the question is still under debate, but will essentially boil down to that choice.
Britain has already held one referendum on whether to stay to stay in Europe in 1975.
The nation voted to remain in the then Common Market, but politicians have continually debated whether Britain should continue membership.
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