By Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent
Millions of expatriates will be given a “vote for life” in elections in a move that could strengthen the Conservative Party’s grip on power.
The Government is to announce on Friday that it will scrap the 15-year limit after which more than three million Britons living overseas lose their right to vote.
The change – which will be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament – will apply to future general elections and give expats the right to vote in the last constituency where they lived.
Chris Skidmore, the constitution minister, said: “This statement shows how we will introduce ‘votes for life’.
“British citizens who move abroad remain a part of our democracy and it is important they have the ability to participate.
It is only right and fair after a lifetime of contributing to the UK that they in turn should be given the right to vote
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP
“Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation.
“Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.”
David Cameron first pledged to abolish the 15-year rule in September 2014, and it formed part of the Conservative manifesto.
Prior to 1985, expats were not permitted to register to vote in UK national elections. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allowed expats to vote in elections for the first 15 years after they left the UK.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, parliamentary adviser to Conservatives Abroad, who has campaigned for the changes for years, said: “British citizens abroad … are some of the best unofficial ambassadors that we have. It is only right and fair after a lifetime of contributing to the UK that they in turn should be given the right to vote.”
Many expats are concerned about their future migration status
During the EU referendum, expats launched a High Court bid in an attempt to force the Government to overturn the 15-year rule, which proved unsuccessful.
Many expats also remain concerned about their future migration status amid concerns that EU nations could “retaliate” for British migration curbs.
Theresa May has refused to guarantee EU migrants the right to live and work in the UK amid concerns that it could become part of the EU negotiation deal.
Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, raised concerns earlier this week that the issue could become a negotiating “card” as Britain approaches Brexit. by telegraph.co.uk