By Andria Kades
The British High Commission is calling on UK expats in Cyprus to register as overseas voters for the highly anticipated EU referendum set to take place in 2017.
Crucial votes will determine whether the UK remains part of the European Union or breaks away with a ‘Brexit’.
“There are as many as 5.5m UK citizens living overseas who may have views on the matter but may not know if they are eligible to take part, and if so how to do this,” British High Commissioner Ric Todd said on Wednesday.
According to the 2011 Cyprus census, some 25,000 British expats live in the Republic alone.
To be able to vote, expats need to need to have been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years, know their national insurance number and have their passport to hand.
Individuals who do not have a national insurance number can still register but may need to supply more information as proof of identity.
If someone was too young when they left the UK to have been registered, they can register as an overseas voter if their parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.
Expats can now register online in a short five minute process at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Voters can cast their vote via post; proxy (designating someone to vote on their behalf in the UK); or in person at a polling station in their constituency – unlikely if they live overseas.
As the date of the referendum is unknown, people are advised to register as soon as possible to ensure they are registered on time. People who are not registered cannot vote.
Expats can download and post back paper forms but are advised to return the completed form as far in advance of the deadline as possible. The actual deadlines for registering to vote and applying for an absent vote will be set once the date of the referendum is known.
The commission is also seeking the active participation of expats.
“If you are a member of the British expatriate community in Cyprus and have ideas about how to get this message out and encourage British expatriates to register to vote, please let us know,” the British High Commission said in a statement.
Todd will address the issue for expat residents on Thursday on CyBC1 television during it current affairs programme ‘Apo Mera Se Mera’. The segment with Todd will air at 2.30pm, CyBC said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised the referendum in 2013 to try to put to rest the divisive subject of Europe that dogged his Conservative predecessor John Major and brought down his hero, Margaret Thatcher.
The stakes are high. A vote to leave would not only transform Britain’s future role in world trade and affairs but would also shake the EU, which has struggled to maintain unity over migration and financial crises, by ripping away its second-largest economy and one of its two main military powers.
Register to vote by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote