A message by Tim Hitchens, British Ambassador to Japan
Whether you think the UK should remain in or leave the EU, the 23rd of June will be your chance to have your say. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the British people to decide.
The British government is clear that we believe the UK should stay in. As David Cameron put it: “every family, household, business, community and nation within our United Kingdom will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining inside this reformed European Union.”
But what do you, as overseas electors, think?
At the 2015 General Election there were more overseas voters registered than ever. Almost 106,000 overseas electors registered to vote - three times the numbers that were on the register ahead of the previous general election in 2010. While this is a real improvement, it is still a fraction of the 5.5 million UK citizens estimated to be living overseas, and potentially eligible to vote at the EU Referendum.
This means millions of UK citizens living overseas could miss out on their chance take part in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union because they don’t know they are eligible to register to vote. That is why here in Japan we are working with partners to spread the word and inform UK residents in Japan that many of them are eligible to vote and that it’s now easier than ever to take the first step by going online to register to vote.
You can apply to register to vote in five minutes at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. Thousands of expats have already taken advantage of the new system in order to register to vote. To have your vote count, be sure to register by 16 May.
If you can’t or don’t want to register online, you can still download and post back paper forms. But remember to return your completed form as far in advance of the deadline as possible. The actual deadlines for registering to vote and applying for an absent vote will be set once the date of the referendum is known. Once you’ve registered, you can choose how you wish to vote. You can vote by post, by proxy (voting by appointing someone you trust to vote on your behalf), or even in person at your polling station.
To register as an overseas elector you must have been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years. You will also need to know your National Insurance number and date of birth, and have your passport to hand if you have one. If you don’t have a National Insurance number you can still register, but you may have to supply more information to show who you are.
If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered, then you can register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.
You might be asking yourself, why bother to vote? Although you may now live in Japan, most expats still have strong ties with the UK – financial, family, friends. You may also decide to return one day. So you very probably do have a stake in the outcome and how it may affect your life. I strongly encourage you to register to vote. And please join us in spreading the word among friends, family and colleagues. Pass the message on that your vote matters! #UKexpat #YourVoteMatters
||Electoral Commission deadline for appointment of lead campaigners for each side of the debate
||Referendum period begins: campaign spending rules apply
||Electoral Commission’s recommended deadline for overseas voters to register by
||Electoral Commission’s window for overseas voters’ ballot papers to be sent out
||Statutory restrictions on publications by government and other public bodies begin (‘purdah’): further guidance will be issued nearer the time