One family, 600,000 inconvenient truths

PUBLISHED: 16:27 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 28 September 2018

Activists wave European Union and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster
Photo: PA / Victoria Jones

Activists wave European Union and Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster Photo: PA / Victoria Jones

PA Wire/PA Images

MARTIN KIRBY and MAGGIE WHITMAN are calling on the government to extend voting rights to the British living abroad.

Petition organisers Martin Kirby and Maggie Whitman. Photograph: Supplied.Petition organisers Martin Kirby and Maggie Whitman. Photograph: Supplied.

There are many inconvenient truths about democracy in the alarmingly-fractured UK right now. Here are 600,000 more. They cannot be ignored a day longer.

The acute, abject dereliction of democracy by Parliament by not acting on pledges to change the law and give all nationals living and working long-term in Europe a vote on their future has to be called out. Right now.

As another vote looms we urgently appeal to everyone to help us force MPs to wake up to this gross failure and to address it. This petition is one way to do that.

How is it in any way deemed acceptable to turn a blind eye to so many citizens regarding their human and legal rights, on an issue that critically affects them more than any?

This astonishing abandonment by Parliament and the main parties reflects the disarray and irreparable harm of the dire and distressing Brexit crisis.

It was wholly wrong to exclude us in the Brexit vote. Now it could happen again as we face the very real prospect of Parliament failing to agree and there having to be another People’s Vote or a general election.

Eight months ago constitution minister Chris Skidmore declared that the Tories were going to address the injustice, saying of the disenfranchised “their stake in our country must be respected”.

He wrote to campaigners “this government will not deny them the opportunity to have their say in how the country is governed”.

Those words have now faded. Then in July Labour made it clear that allowing suffrage for so many was just too complicated.

Cat Smith, the shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, said the party would not support the bill because it would involve too much administration.

What?

It has been alarming how the response to the injustice is that it is suddenly, somehow, our fault for, in so many cases, working for Britain within Europe, seeking to build understanding and shared values, believing and accepting a declaration that it is our right to live within a union of peace and cooperation.

But this is not just about the European Union and a single vote.

We refer to the vast number of us, millions, who are proud to be UK nationals, whose work/businesses make a direct, positive contribution to the British economy, who are the faces and voices of the UK in the world, communicators and facilitators, whose livelihoods are subject directly to Westminster policy with its bearing on currency, trade, rights.

We refer, too, to the UK pensioners who have paid their full UK contributions through their working lives and who are wholly dependent on the decisions of the UK parliament for fairness regarding their rightful benefits.

People have been led to believe there is clarity when there is profoundly none, to believe there is simplicity when there is huge complexity and consequence, to somehow view so many people as merely absconders.

“Britain will trade with the world”, is the mantra, but those who already endeavour to make that happen, more than 4 million of us, many of who directly or indirectly work for their country abroad and represent it around the globe, or have chosen to retire abroad, are suddenly inconsequential? No.

Please consider how fundamentally wrong that is.

With full understanding about how much everyone is struggling to grapple with right now, we ask that you take a minute to sign the petition, share the link, and help us.

• Martin Kirby and Maggie Whitman have run the olive farm Mother’s Garden in Catalonia for 18 years, importing premium award-winning olive oil into the UK.

You can sign Martin and Maggie’s online petition here on the Parliament UK website

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