Wrong Battle

Leading figures in the British community in France and in our own British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP) are struggling, to little effect, to obtain voting rights for citizens living abroad but this is of minor importance compared with another struggle which may confront them.

The efforts to gain voting rights are for those who have lived abroad for more than 15 years: not the right to vote for MPs who would defend the rights of expatriates, a privilege which French citizens abroad enjoy, but a vote in whatever constituency with which they may feel an affinity, even though they may not know the MP’s name or the major concerns of his constituents.

No, I write of another threatened struggle. A year ago I was treating threats of Britain voting to leave the European Union as a diverting quirk, typical of my countrymen. Now it is dawning on me that the threat is becoming a real one. The Economist this week also turns its attention to the matter, devoting its cover and two principal articles to the subject.

Both in the populace and in political circles it is taking on an immediacy which should give us serious concern. Apart from all the diplomatic, political, economic and trade issues at stake and whatever your views on them, Britain’s leaving the EU might have considerable repercussions on British citizens living on the Continent. Without being any sort of authority on the subject, I would wager that there would be increased financial difficulties and bureaucratic problems ten years down the road regarding “cartes de sejours”, importing of household goods, health insurance, pensions etc., all of which would have to be re-negotiated.

I will not expatiate here on the advantages and disadvantages it would have for Britain. The Economist says our departure from Europe is becoming “ever more possible”. Despite the fact that the leaders of the three main political parties, business leaders and the trade unions all want to stay in, 80 M.P.s of our Conservative party are pressing for a referendum and the polls say that over 50% of the population would vote in favour of leaving and only 30% would vote for staying.

So, I believe this to be more of an issue (than voting rights) on which we should be considering with great concern.