A British ex-pat who has built a successful business in Catalonia has launched a fight against what he describes as a ‘gross failure of democracy’.
Author and olive oil producer Martin Kirby wants the government to repeal the rule which states Brits who have lived aboard for more than 15 years are not allowed to vote.
The 60-year-old has published a parliamentary petition in a bid to force the government to debate the subject. But he fears time is running out with increasing possibility of MPs being deadlocked on a Brexit deal which could force a general election or a People’s Vote.
Mr Kirby, whose company Mother’s Garden achieves 80% of its profit selling high-end olive oil into the UK market, needs 100,000 signatures to trigger a debate in parliament.
He said: ‘Within in the EU alone we are talking hundreds of thousands of people who are living and working British nationals abroad – and they are not allowed a vote. It is a gross failure of democracy – these people are perhaps more affected by the vote than any other and they have been failed.
‘I am sticking my head above the parapet here – and I will get flak – but I need to explain and argue this case in detail. A lot of people don’t understand. People say ‘you don’t live here – you have no right to the vote’. But it is essential that Britain recognises the values and rights of its citizens abroad.
‘I am not campaigning for a second vote. Whatever your opinions on Britain and Europe and the nation’s place and profile in the world, there is now the acute possibility of parliament not being able to agree a way forward, that this will force a second vote, whether it is another referendum or general election.
‘That is why this petition is critical. Ending the 15-year rule is essential, immediately.
‘It is a basic human and legal democratic right that the hundreds of thousands of British people and their families have a voice on our country’s exit from the EU, that we are not just ignored again.
‘Britain wants to trade with the world – we, the ex-pats, are Britain in the world. We are proud to be British we are Britain’s bridge to the world.’
After the 2015 general election the government indicated it would bring forward a Votes for Life Bill in the Queen’s Speech. The bill has yet to be introduced in the House although Glyn Davies MP brought a Private Members Bill which was given a second reading in February this year.
To sign Mr Kirby’s petition click here.