Could Britain's expats sway the EU referendum?

Louis Dor
Friday 29 April 2016 08:40
Pictures: Getty

A court has ruled that over 700,000 British expats will not be able to vote in the EU referendum.

Lord Justice Lloyd Jones delivered the ruling after 94-year-old Harry Shindler, who lives in Italy, and Jacquelyn MacLennan challenged the current legislation, according to the Telegraph, arguing that they were being illegally denied the chance to vote, having lived in another European country for over 15 years.

The couple are now likely to appeal to the supreme court.

But would emigrants sway the vote?

So are expats allowed to vote in the EU referendum?

Provided they are registered and have not lived abroad for more than 15 years, yes.

The Conservatives actually promised to throw out this cut off period, but hadn't done so prior to the referendum legislation.

If you've been living abroad for 16 years, tough luck.

How many expats are we talking about?

It's estimated by the UN, that just over 4.5 million Britons live abroad - the World Bank estimates our country's diaspora to be the eighth largest in the world.

Of these 4.5 million, roughly 1.3 million reside in Europe according to the UN, 2.2 million if you listen to the UK government.

The below chart by Statista gives an estimate for the numbers abroad in Europe.

The precise number of expats eligible to vote in the EU referendum isn't known, nor is it known how many will register.

But it could be a substantial number.

How will they sway the vote?

A great deal of prominence has been given to expats who call for Brexit - mostly because complaining about issues like immigration as an emigrant always seems a little hypocritical.

However, no substantial polling has been done exclusively on emigrants' attitudes to Brexit.

So it's impossible to say which side they'll fall predominately on - but it's important to remember they're not a homogeneous lump of Leave or Remain voters - as shown by the various views of these interviewees.

However, the population that emigrates is mostly older and the population that is older skews to voting to leave.

The best guess is that they'll probably vote close to the Leave/Remain split the UK population follows, or slightly to the Leave side.

In short, expats are likely to give Leave a small boost, but also - who knows?

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