Lon­don and Madrid close to vot­ing deal

Post-Brexit agree­ment would al­low ex­pats to vote in lo­cal elec­tions

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack Troughton

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.

Radar

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.”

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