Register, vote, and create the change you want

A polling station open for the elections. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA.

A polling station open for the elections. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Time is running out to register to vote for the European elections. COLOMBE CAHEN-SALVADOR explains what you need to do ensure you can have a say.

Ahead of the European elections, I keep on being asked by EU27 citizens living in the UK where they should vote: in the UK or where they come from? A French friend just reached out to me this morning wondering if it's more strategic to vote in France or in London, considering Brexit and all.

The question is understandable as Europeans get to choose where to vote between their native country and country of residency, for these elections. It is also no understatement to say that the stakes are higher than ever, nor that the future is uncertain in the UK.

However, let me start with the basics: this is not a pro versus anti-Brexit vote. Even though political parties are trying to frame it as a proxy vote for Brexit, this is about the EU and its future. As a result, the campaign period should be focused on the EU's potential and how it can beneficiate citizens, about projects, policies and budgets. Let's talk about the European Parliamentarians' roles, but let's not mix everything up.

The real uncertainty with these elections is that if the UK leaves before July 1st, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will not sit in the European Parliament. This is unlikely to happen. However, if the UK does not leave by then, MEPs will be able to stay in Parliament for the next five years. This means that they will shape the future of the Union, influence directives and regulations, or be able to block the work of the European Parliament. This will have a real impact in the 27 other countries that will remain in the Union, regardless of when the UK leaves. This vote is not about Brexit, but about those that have a constructive project, not just trendy slogans.

And here is where the tricky part lies. Since the elections were called last minute, and because it's easier to pretend it's a proxy vote for or against Brexit, no existing English party has a programme for Europe yet, but Volt. As a pan-European party, a programme was drafted in October and adopted by during a European General Assembly by European citizens. Andrea Venzon, the independent candidate for London representing Volt, will thus campaign on the three main pillars of Volt's programme, with the aims of fixing the EU, making it an economic powerhouse and creating a just and responsible society. Additionally, being pan-European, Volt MEPs will sit together in the European Parliament with the same priorities and will support one another in creating the change the EU desperately need to be an everlasting project.

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The current situation of British politics, in the midst of Brexit and the European elections, has created a lot of confusion. People do not understand why they should vote for European elections since the UK might soon leave the EU, people don't understand if and why it's about Brexit, and people don't even understand how to vote.

This is exactly why, for the EU27 citizens, I think it is extremely important to exercise your civic right in the UK for the European elections. Huge issues are at stake and there is a possibility of getting a constructive and European message out. In addition, this is the one chance the UK will have of influencing European politics for the next five years. Let's not miss it, use your vote in a smart manner, one that will help build our future, not destroy it.

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To my non-British fellow Europeans living in the UK, vote in the UK. Take charge of your future. How? You must do the following three things by Tuesday 7 May:

• Be registered to vote. You can register online here.

• Download the European parliament voter registration form here.

• Send the completed form to your local Electoral Registration Office, whose address you can find here.

This is complicated right? Yes, and it will have the unfortunate effect of baring many Europeans from participating in those key elections. So far, fewer than 300 forms have been returned, a few days before the deadline.

So, register, today! Once you have done that, you can vote for the European elections, have an impact on the EU's future, support constructive politicians and ensure that a strong message is passed throughout the UK. Let's not wait until May 24th to complain about awful results, don't wait to participate.

Register, vote, create the change you want.

• Colombe Cahen-Salvador is the co-founder and policy lead at Volt Europa

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