London and Madrid close to voting deal
Post-Brexit agreement would allow expats to vote in local elections
THE SPANISH and British gov- ernments are close to reaching a deal that will ensure around 280,000 British nationals resi- dent in Spain will maintain their right to vote and stand in local elections in Spain.
BRITISH and Spanish expats look set to preserve their democratic rights after the UK departs the European Union in a bilateral deal being drafted by the two governments.
Negotiations are understood to be close to securing the right to a voice in local elections on both sides of the Channel after Brexit, scheduled for March 29 this year.
A deal agreed between the two countries would ensure some 280,000 British nationals resident in Spain and more than 115,000 Spanish citizens living in the UK will maintain the right to participate in local government.
Spanish national newspaper El Pais underlined a treaty between the two historic allies was on the table, although it would have to be ratified by both parliaments.
Voting rights are not part of the withdrawal agreement that British premier Theresa May hopes to get the approval of the House of Commons next week in the so-called ‘meaningful vote’.
And reports from Madrid underline how Spain’s foreign ministry is keen to include Brits both in local elections and give them the right to run for town hall office, and if signed by politicians it would allow participation in the May local ballot.
Spain is home to the largest British resident population within the EU bloc. Under current law, the citizens of 39 countries other than Spanish people themselves can vote in local elections.
They include the 27 current members of the EU and people from a number of South American countries, Norway, Iceland, Cape Verde, New Zealand, South Korea and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Spanish government is concerned there are 'several tens of thousands' of UK nationals who are not registered as being resident and is working with the British Embassy to encourage them to become legal and on the radar.
Madrid also recognises there are currently 37 British people serving as councillors in local government; 19 of them are elected to town hall positions in Valencia, the region home to almost a third of Spain’s UK community.
Carole Saunders is a Calpe councillor and advised British expats who wished to vote in May to check they were correctly registered with their town halls – and if necessary sign up to maintain a voice in local elections before the end of January.
“There are 58,500 British expats registered to vote across the whole of Spain; the province of Alicante has about 20,000 foreigners registered to vote and the province of Valencia 18,500,” she said.
“If people want to take part in the decisions that affect the communities in which they live, they should go to the town hall and make sure they are on the electoral register.”