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Angry and alienated: How Britons in Italy feel at being denied a vote in the UK general election

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Angry and alienated: How Britons in Italy feel at being denied a vote in the UK general election
When the votes are counted on December 12th, many Brits living abroad will not have a voice. Photo: AFP
16:32 CET+01:00
British citizens living in Italy told The Local of their anger at being denied a vote in the upcoming UK general election, saying they felt like “third-class citizens” or “refugees” with “no voice” and “no country”.

Elections are looming in the UK and the political discourse is dominated by Brexit. But many of the people who would be most directly affected by Britain leaving the EU will have no say in the election, just as many had no say in the crucial Brexit referendum in 2016.

The British government currently denies the vote to anyone who has lived out of the country for more than 15 years, meaning that thousands of Brits living in Italy or elsewhere in Europe will have no voice on December 12th.

REMINDER: What the Brexit deal means for Brits in Italy

December's election is being seen by some as a second public vote on Brexit, given the outcome will have a huge bearing on if and how the UK exits the EU.

We asked British citizens in Italy how it feels to lose their vote in the country of their birth.

Dozens of you responded, and many pointed out that they still pay tax in the UK and are directly affected by British government decisions.

In our poll, 80 percent said Britons should never lose the vote, no matter how long they have lived abroad.

20 percent felt it was fair to have a time limit on voting in general elections after moving abroad.

“I agree for general elections that having a cut off point is fair."

"I do strongly object however that in elections or referendums, where our rights are at risk we should be given the right to vote. The Brexit referendum was not democratic in this respect,” said Marion Hunter, living in Verona.

“It feels like we are in limbo and have no rights”, she said, adding: “we did not “leave” - we exercised our right to move freely within the EU.”

'Then came Brexit'

Some respondents said the Brexit question had changed the way they think about voting rights for UK citizens living abroad.

“My answer to this question used to be "no", on the grounds that only those who reside and contribute to UK should be able to vote;” said Ellen Bain Prior, who has lived in Italy for the past 32 years.

“Then came Brexit and a couple of million of Brits living all over the world, long-term, found their existing fundamental rights being whipped out from under their feet, without their having been allowed any voice in the decision.”

“This should never be allowed to happen again.”

Photo: AFP

The majority felt that they should be allowed to vote in the UK general election, and many said they now feel “alienated”, “angry,” “powerless” and “discriminated against.”

“One of the fundamentals of a democracy is that it is inclusive and does not discriminate. All Britons should have a say in matters which may directly affect their lives,” said Clarissa Killwick, who has lived in Italy for 20 years.

“Britons who go overseas should be valued, not written off. It goes against the notion of a global Britain if Brits overseas have no representation,” she said.

'No control'

The prevaling sentiment among those who've lost the vote was summed up in this one comment.

“I feel abandoned by my native country. Caught up in a situation over which I have no control.”

Some respondents said they feel like they now have “no voice” and “no country”.

“It feels terrible,” said Vivien Lucia Memo, living in Milan. “I no longer have a country. I still pay tax in the UK but I have no rights whatsoever. I feel like a refugee.”

She added that “Italy never removes voting rights from its citizens living abroad, therefore it is more democratic than Britain.”

READ ALSO: How will Brexit affect you in Italy? Q&A with the British Ambassador

Rupert Dodds, living in the province of Novara, said he felt “alienated, with no voice in the UK.”

Jacqueline Cook, near Udine, said: “Am I or am I not a British citizen, wherever I may live? I feel like a third class one without the right to vote.”

No taxation without representation’

Many readers said they felt that regardless of Brexit, those that pay taxes should maintain their right to vote.

“As many are still UK taxpayers, the principle of no taxation without representation stands. Also, though many acts of Parliament relate to internal UK affairs, many others like the Brexit vote impact directly on Brits living in EU27,” said Denise Abel, living in Umbria.

And some readers who now pay tax in Italy but have British citizenship said they should still have the right to vote in the UK.

“I pay taxes in Italy and not in England, however for a referendum which affects my citizenship I believe that I am entitled to a vote,” said Gerald Arthur Sadler, who has been in Italy for 45 years.

Proxy or postal?

Local authorities in the UK have been suggesting Brits abroad to opt for proxy vote given the short time limit for arranging the elections and historical problems with postal votes.

For those British citizens in Italy who can vote in December's election, over 73 percent say they will do so via a proxy vote, with 19 percent opting for a postal vote, and more than seven percent saying they won't be voting.

The answers above are just a small sample of the many responses we received. Thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch and share their thoughts.

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