Friday, December 16, 2011

The case of whether James Preston can vote hits the sand?

Who is James Preston?  He is a English businessman who lives in Spain. His last home in Britain was in Wandsworth, London,  more than 15 years ago.  When he applied to Wandsworth Council in 2009 to be registered as an overseas voter, he was told that because he left for Spain more than 15 years ago, he could not register as a voter.
Mr. Preston took the case to the High Court in London, with his Counsel acting ‘pro bono publico’ (for the public cause and without a fee).  
The final (almost) phase of this was brought to judgement on 8th November 2011 before the judges Lord Justice Elias and Mr. Justice King.  The case number is CO/3344/2010
Sad to say the judges rejected Mr. Preston’s case.
Is it stuck in the sand?  Well there are some interesting comments on the case both from the Counsel for the defence (the Council and the Government) and judges.
Let us look at these.
1.                  Mr Coppel (Counsel  for the Government) …  “Imposing a period of fifteen years as the cut-off point for eligibility to vote from overseas does not appear to be either disproportionate (etc)…………… Over such a time period, the applicant may reasonably be regarded as having weakened the link between himself and the United Kingdom … and he cannot argue that he is affected by the acts of political institutions to the same extent as resident citizens. It may be noted that in European Union countries, persons in the position of the applicant may generally vote in European Parliament elections. It is also open to the applicant, whether or not he so wishes, to seek to obtain the vote in the country of residence, if necessary by applying for citizenship.”
I am profoundly insulted by the last sentence.  These people confound VOTING with REPRESENTATION.   They assume that all that is necessary is the physical act of  THE VOTE!!  Help us all.  Are these ‘counsels’ these ‘civil servants’ so utterly blinkered?   We citizens need to be able to have our views HEARD.  We need to be able to speak to those who make laws which affect us and our families still resident in the UK.  We want our views heard on the matter of how our income is derived and the regulations which affect our savings. We want our views heard on the terms of treaties which affect our lives within the EU, and the future of  the structures and life within the UK to which , one day, many of us may need to return.
The link between us and the UK does not diminish with time.  We are not so much less affected than the general run of residents in the UK and getting less so with time. It is just not true!
Do these people realise that we, who live in Europe communicate instantaneously with our friends and families in Britain, and that we are aware as instantaneously  through television and the internet with events in Britain as THEY HAPPEN!

Lord Justice Elias wrote in his submission
I accept that the claimant and others who have provided witness statements are genuinely upset about the rule and consider it to be unjust and unnecessary. The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right and the claimant is aggrieved by its removal. It does not, however, follow that disenfranchisement constitutes a deterrence to free movement.   For reasons I have given, in my judgement, it does not.
The matter of ‘free movement’ is the central point of Mr. Preston’s argument in this case.  It was on that very point that the judgement went against him
The Lord Justice Elias has also said ‘The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right’. 
Lord Justice Elias  continued  Strictly therefore the issue of justification does not arise.  However, I shall deal with it briefly in case I am wrong on the first point. 
In my view, the 15 year rule is a proportionate interference with the right of free movement.  The Government was entitled to hold that there is a legitimate objective which the rule is designed to achieve, namely to remove the right to vote from those whose links with the UK have diminished and who are not, for the most part at least, directly affected by the laws passed in the UK.  

In short – If the Government are only seeking to remove the right to vote from those who have no links with the UK – then this obviously HAS FAILED. 
I and many like me have demonstrably very strong links with the UK and will have till the grave welcomes us.  
To remove my right to be REPRESENTED in the seat of Government of my Nation is dictatorship.  Britain, is in this respect a non-democratic Nation. The Government ordains that the voice of  many of its citizens is unwanted.
This case will go to appeal.
What YOU can do
1. Give your opinion to Mark Harper MP
Mr. Harper is responsible for promoting a change in the law.
2. Make sure you give a comment on
3. Post this item to other British people.

Friday, December 9, 2011


If you will excuse my taking on the role of the prophet Cassandra, the Euro-land agreement struck in Brussels on December 8th 2011 could presage an exceedingly uncomfortable time for British expatriates in the European Union.  The scenario unfolded below is unlikely, but let us follow it.
We have before us a position whereby at least 23 nations of Europe are forming a ‘fiscal union’ .  It could well be that in time there will be 26 nations in this Euro-land  club with Britain alone remaining outside.
At the moment all 27 nations (including Britain) are signatories to the various European Union treaties from those of Rome to Maastricht.
These treaties enable British citizens variously, [though some items apply only or largely to pensioners who have never subscribed to the social care provision of their resident State (marked *)]
a. to move and live freely within Europe in any State, regardless of income.
b. to vote in local elections and become maires and councillors in their communes.
c.. receive health care cover*
d. to receive all Social Security benefits* to which they would be entitled in their home State.
e.  to receive the State pension as they would in their home State*

Now consider – as time goes on would one not imagine that the 23/26 Nations will need to change the EU treaties to serve some new circumstance? 
Is it not probable that such a circumstance could affect the arrangements with Britain?
That would trigger a referendum in Britain, if indeed the British Government were to countenance such a change.  If it did not then Britain might anyway have to pull out of the Union, for the 23/26 could not tolerate such a thorn in the flesh.

Is it not extremely likely that the right-wing faction of the Conservatives will use the existing situation today to attempt to force a referendum?   Would they succeed?

If a referendum were forced, is it not very likely that the result would force Britain out of the Union?
In the worst scenario (says Cassandra) then life for all British pensioners (450,000 of them) and quite a few other British citizens would be financially intolerable.  Many would have to go home, because their health cover collapses, and their income could drop as well.
Pensions could be frozen, the Winter Fuel payment (for those who have been allowed to receive it!) would stop.
This is the doomsday scenario –  But let us not listen to Cassandra and consider a more likely situation.
If Britain were to leave the EU a horror on such a full scale would probably, in some manner, be averted.  Britain would probably adopt the same status as Norway or Switzerland, within the EEA but outside the EU as full members. (see note at the end)
Inclusion in the EEA means that Britain still is a signatory to the regulations covering Social Security, which would mean that the pensioner should not suffer. But Britain would have no say in the future development of the EU. There would be no British MEPs in the EU parliament. Yet, Britain would still be required to subscribe financially to the EU, just as does Norway and Switzerland. 

But in all these changes where stands the opinion of the British expatriate in Europe?
They will not be asked!   The blessed few who have taken care to maintain their right to vote in the UK, will have a voice.  They will be able to vote in a referendum.
Those who left Britain more than 15 years ago will have no chance of a voice.
But will those who have a voice be heard?  One doubts it, because the tiny little voices of the expatriates are not united into one big bellow.
There is no structure for the REPRESENTATION of the British people living in Europe.   The full range of pros and cons of EEA versus EU, or leaving totally, will not be presented to them for their consideration.
We should press for representation right now!

My bet is that a referendum is likely within the next few years.

Note--- For more light on the EEA v. EU look at

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Matter of Frozen Pensions

An article appeared in The Telegraph on  December 1st 2011by Leah Hyslop.
It is on the absurdity of the State (Old Age) pensions being frozen when paid to people who have retired abroad,  mostly to commonwealth countries.

Curiously, the issue was raised by the Runnymede Trust which is a think-tank on race relations. To discover more  - raise this link.

Before you switch off and say ‘This has nothing to do with me!’ stop and ponder.

1   It is fascinating that the matter of the Frozen Pensions is raised via particular concern for the Asian and West African people who immigrated to Britain to seek work up to forty years ago and who wish to retire back to the country of their birth. 
In contrast, any sympathy for the retired Britons descended ancestrally from resident British stock has not up to now achieved anything at all!   If the Runnymede Trust can achieve progress – then let us praise them.  But is it not a curious development?  But the Runnymede Trust is an influential body and it may well yield results where others have failed.

2   The major slant I draw on this is the power that comes through having a Voice.
The Runnymede  Trust is a respected body and possibly the Government will listen.

If only the Expatriates would rise up as a body and declare ‘We Want a Voice’,
Then the expatriates of all colours and creeds might achieve something. 
‘We Want a Voice’    can be interpreted as
‘We want Representation’   which can in turn be interpreted as
‘We want the Vote’ – for LIFE.

If the expatriates could somehow exercise pressure on the British Government, if only!
But they never will unless they stand together, and stand up for justice.