Your help to develop policies for Britons living overseas
Below we have listed ideas for Liberal Democrat policies that will be of particular interest to people who live overseas or have an interest in doing so.
We need your help to ensure that our policies are as comprehensive, relevant and tested as possible. We welcome serious contributions on the topics below or any new ideas that will be of interest to those overseas.
It is simple to participate in this consultation. You do not need to be a member of the Liberal Democrats.
Our survey is now completed but we welcome inputs on these ideas via our Contact Form or our social media accounts.
Twitter - @LibDemsOverseas.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/LibDemsOverseas
The ideas below are just the start - your input will help us to improve our policies and, hopefully, have them adopted officially by the Liberal Democrat Party.
Thank you for your interest.
1. Votes for life
Many British nationals living overseas retain strong links to the UK irrespective of the time they have spent working and living abroad.
Currently, these Britons are eligible to vote in UK elections if they are registered in their last applicable UK constituency and have not been away from the UK for more than 15 years.
The time-limit prevents British nationals from accessing democratic rights.
- support the removal of the 15 year time limit for overseas voter registration
- enable electronic balloting - piloted on overseas residents - to eliminate the need for proxy representation and dependence on unreliable postal systems
- open UK Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions for British nationals to vote in-person (a similar option is already available to some other Commonwealth citizens)
2. Overseas constituencies
Linking overseas voters to their former constituencies is not the best interests of the voter or the constituency MP.
- deliver the proposal to “enable all UK citizens living abroad to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and to participate in UK referendums” (LD Manifesto 2017, p90)
3. Full UK pension
It is possible to claim the UK state pension whilst living overseas assuming a suitable National Insurance record.
If residing in the EEA, Gibraltar, Switzerland or one of the 16 countries where the UK has reciprocal social security agreements, state pension payments should increase yearly. Otherwise, no annual increment will be applied once contributions have begun.
This situation is unfair to many retirees who, despite making equivalent contributions towards a UK state pension during their working lives, do not receive inflation-related increments.
- end the international disparity on pension increments - individuals who have contributed to and are eligible for a UK state pension should receive it in full (including increments) regardless of their residency
- negotiate reciprocal social security agreements with more countries to minimise the different treatment of British nationals choosing to retire overseas
- enable British nationals living overseas to complete their tax returns electronically (not possible without the inclusion of ‘overseas residents’ pages) and be able to easily access healthcare whilst in the UK
4. Improved Foreign Office support
The UK is rightly proud of the services provided by its Foreign and Commonwealth Offices (FCO), including its array of online documents and advice.
However, the provision of support has been inconsistent between countries and occasionally difficult to access. This is especially felt by those traveling, living and working in fragile states - some of which carry a real risk of physical harm.
Whilst the FCO must always operate with due respect to their host countries more can be done to standardise and set clear expectations on the support available to British nationals.
- update the UK’s management of crisis situations, including negotiating ransom payments to save British lives
- develop a targeted ‘early-warning system’ for British nationals registered in fragile states that will recommend actions in response to changing circumstances using mobile networks and registered email addresses
- simplify the classifications of those supported by the FCO (currently at least six groups may be subject to differing support including ‘British citizen’, ‘British overseas territories citizen', etc)
- promote the range of services that will be universally available to British nationals overseas
- provide a single gateway (via Internet or call centre) for British nationals to access government services to reach the relevant Embassy, High Commission or Consulate
5. Equivalent access to UK Universities
Currently, a British nationalmust reside in the UK for three years prior to university entrance for them to be regarded as a ‘home student’ and be charged home student fee levels.
This penalises aspiring British students and their parents who may have been UK residents but work overseas in the years immediately prior to entering university. Some families are forced to live separately for years so that children can qualify as home students.
- give British nationals overseas the same rights as UK residents when applying to UK Universities and paying their fees
6. Protect UK residency rights
The current approach to immigration and visa applications is unreasonable and has restricted the rights of even British nationals - especially those who have married or started families overseas.
- implement a fair immigration standard that protects the rights of British nationals to return, live and work in the UK with their immediate family members even if spouses and children are not originally British nationals
- remove arbitrary asset and income thresholds for returnees and other immigrants but retain the expectation that incoming families will be able to support themselves financially
- provide visa arrangements that enable practical access to the workplace to suit family circumstances - i.e. those best placed to work can do so
- protect the rights of overseas citizens who made life choices whilst the UK was a member of the EU