Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: British Embassy Spain anxious to recruit expat voters for the Brexit referendum

The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley made the train journey to Malaga to speak to a collection of press and council representatives to promote the voter registration campaign. In some ways, whilst clearly anxious to ensure that as many British voters did take the trouble to register to vote, the Ambassador had a somewhat difficult position to defend in as much as the current government had, as part of its election manifesto, stated that it wanted to see one person one vote, but it had called the referendum with insufficient time to pass legislation to allow those UK passport holders resident in Spain (or elsewhere) who had lived here for more than 15 years to vote. This coupled with the fact that those who had lived in Northern Ireland could not apply to register to vote on line and no obvious assistance was available for those without internet connection rather dampened the excitement of those being exhorted to invite British expats to register to vote. Regardless of this trio of disappointments, there are still potentially hundreds of thousands of British potential voters still not registered for the referendum. No one actually knows the true number but since the start of 2016, it appears that as many as 80,000 people from Spain have visited the Government website https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and the majority of them have registered to vote. Although both the Conservative government and the Labour party have indicated that they are in favour of remaining within the European Union, there is also a strong Brexit cadre, many of whom are members of government so the British Embassy is required to take a neutral position, recommending registration and promoting government policy but it will not campaign officially for either side. Those who are unable to register on-line are recommended to contact their nearest British Consulate office for advice and assistance but they should do this as soon as is possible.



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