Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

How British residents in UAE can vote in UK General Election

Overseas voters must be registered by November 26 to take part

The latest chapter in the now long-running saga of Brexit and British politics will be written on December 12, as the nation heads to the polls to elect its next Prime Minister.

Politicians and the public remain divided, with some wanting to leave the EU as soon as possible and others preferring a second referendum.

The UK voted for Brexit in 2016 and the government has since repeatedly ruled out another popular vote, claiming that to ignore the first could trigger a constitutional crisis.

But with ongoing parliamentary shenanigans and continued Brexit delays, any number of outcomes in next month's election are possible.

And with that in mind, it is arguably a critical time for British residents living in the UAE to register as an overseas voter. According to British Embassy figures, there are 102,000 British residents in the UAE.

How do I vote if I live abroad?

British or eligible Irish citizens can register as an overseas voter for up to 15 years after leaving the UK.

Registration needs to be completed every year, unless you are in the armed forces where you can renew every five years as a ‘service voter’.

A separate registration system exists for British Council employees or crown servants, such as diplomats working overseas.

Voters must have been registered to vote within the previous 15 years, if they were old enough to do so.

The legal voting age in the UK is 18 and can be done by completing an online form taking around five minutes.

Expatriates wishing to vote in Northern Ireland need to register in paper form. More of that shortly.

Is there a registration deadline?

Yes, and the clock is ticking with a deadline set for midnight GMT on November 26.

Those looking to register by post need to do so before 5pm on November 26 in England, Scotland and Wales and before November 21 if you wish to vote in Northern Ireland.

Anyone wishing to elect to vote by proxy, where someone else submits a voting card on your behalf, needs to do so by 5pm on December 4.

Those wanting to vote by post should apply by 5pm on November 26 to get your postal voting pack sent out in time.

This is where things can get a little tricky for residents of the UAE. A postal vote must arrive at your designated Electoral Official in the UK no later than by 10pm on December 12, or your vote will not be counted.

Anyone registered in Northern Ireland is unable to have their postal vote sent outside of the UK, so must apply for a proxy vote before November 21.

Emirates Post could play a big part in ensuring Brits are able to vote.

A host of other private couriers are available to ensure election choices are submitted ahead of the deadline.

Is there still time for me to register to vote from the UAE?

In theory, yes. Election authorities are encouraging Brits overseas to elect a proxy vote on their behalf due to the short timescale ahead.

For a clear majority, political parties need to win 326 of the 650 seats in the House of Parliament to form a government.

The 2015 General Election saw the rise of David Cameron as leader of a Conservative government with 36.9 per cent of the vote across 330 seats.

More than 100,000 overseas voters worldwide took up the option to register online in 2015 under a new system, three times as many overseas voters as in 2010.

But UAE residents were beset with problems trying to register ahead of the deadline with just a two-week window to send and receive postal election packs.

Thousands of votes from the UAE were thought to have gone uncounted.

In 2017, Theresa May was elected to lead a minority Conservative government after the resignation of Mr Cameron.

The three largest party candidates for the 2019 election are Boris Johnson for the Conservatives, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats.

The registration process can be submitted at https://www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk#voting-from-abroad.

Updated: November 9, 2019 03:40 PM

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