One of the longest serving Conservative MPs, Sir Roger Gale, the MP for North Thanet, has, as readers of this paper will know, tirelessly campaigned in defence of the rights of British expatriates, not least here in Majorca.
Sir Roger was one of the MPs to force the party to include abolishing the 15-year voting rule in its manifesto for this legislature. However, there appears to be a delay in the “Lifetime Voting Bill” going through parliament. Sir Roger explained to the Bulletin: “The ‘Lifetime Voting Bill’ will be introduced but not in time for the referendum. Complicated, but it’s to do with the long title of a bill that would lend itself open to other Lords' amendments (such as votes for 16-year olds).”
And this means that the 15-year rule is still in place, despite the huge effort which is being made to encourage those entitled to vote to do so because not even David Cameron could give any guarantees to Sir Roger about what will happen to expatriates should the UK vote to leave the UK in 120 days time.
Sir Roger, hitherto a known Eurosceptic, indicated in the House of Commons during PMQs on Monday that he intends to vote for Britain to remain within the European Union.
Speaking following the prime minister’s statement, Sir Roger said: “My Rt. Hon. Friend has indicated that the referendum is for a generation. I am blessed with five grandchildren and it is in what I believe to be the best interests of that generation that I shall be voting for the country that I love to remain within the European Union. There is another generation that also deserves some consideration. There are thousands of UK citizens who have paid their taxes and their National Insurance contributions throughout their working lives and who now live in other European countries. The prime minister knows that I have sought to represent the interests of those people but many of them are now very frightened because they do not know what will happen to them if Britain votes to leave the EU. Can My Rt. Hon. Friend clarify their situation?”
Responding, the prime minister said that, while their future within the EU was clear, there was uncertainty over the position of UK citizens living in European countries were the UK to leave and that would have to be the subject of negotiation.
Speaking after the exchange Sir Roger said: “This is a very worrying situation for those who have chosen to work and retire ‘overseas’ and those planning to do so. I have already written to the PM to seek clarification in respect of pension rights, uprating and other benefits and I am awaiting a response but it looks as though a 'Brexit' vote would pile uncertainty upon what are already sometimes difficult situations and decisions. It is, I think, vital that all of those entitled to register and to use their votes.”
This is a message that the British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manely, took to expatriates and British businesses in Malaga today as he embarks on a road trip to try and get all those entitled to vote to do so.