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Britons abroad: Don’t miss out on your right to vote in the EU referendum

February 4, 2016

As British ambassador to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I encourage British expats to register ahead of the European Union (EU) referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the Union.

More than 100,000 British expats registered to vote for the U.K.’s most recent general election, in 2015. This is three times the number that had been registered in time for the 2010 General Election, but still only represents around 2 percent of those of us who are living overseas and who may be eligible to vote in the EU Referendum.

Those who didn’t register to vote for our last general election may not have registered in time, while others may simply not have known they had the option to participate in this important democratic process while living abroad. U.K. overseas voters, in fact, are eligible (subject to fulfilling the criteria) to vote in a number of polls, like the U.K. Parliamentary General Elections, European Parliamentary elections and the upcoming EU Referendum.

That’s why I am taking this opportunity to urge those of you who have been registered to vote in the U.K. in the last 15 years, to register now as an overseas elector at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to have your say in the EU Referendum.

The date for the referendum itself has not yet been announced, which makes it all the more important that you register as soon as possible, to ensure that you complete this important step ahead of time. The process has been simplified, and I’ve been assured that it takes no longer than making a good strong cup of tea!

If, for some reason, you’re unable or unwilling to register online, you have the option of downloading the forms and posting them, but please remember to submit your completed form well in advance of the deadline to allow time for postage and possible delays.

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 — by post or by proxy, that is, asking someone you trust to vote on your behalf.

If you were too young when you left the U.K. to have been registered, then you can register as an overseas voter if your parents, or guardians, were registered to vote in the U.K. in the last 15 years.

Even if you’re not able to go online and register today, please don’t miss the opportunity to do this as soon as possible; and please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.

Ross Denny is British Ambassador to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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