With the May 16 deadline for British citizens in Cyprus to register for the postal vote in the June 23 EU referendum fast approaching, the British High Commission is urging expats to register as soon as possible.
“People often don’t know that they can register within 15 years of leaving the UK,” British High Commissioner Ric Todd told reporters in Nicosia on Monday.
“This is important as the electoral commission believes there are as many as 5.5 million UK citizens living overseas who may not know if they are eligible to take part in the referendum, and if so how to do this. All British citizens living overseas who wish to vote in this referendum are encouraged to register by 16 May, in order to establish whether they are eligible and if so to have their say,” Todd explained.
According to the High Commission, 65,000 British expats currently live in the Republic. Though it is not known how exactly many of them have so far registered to vote, the High Commission reports a sharp increase in the numbers since they started their campaign a couple of months ago.
“We are campaigning on behalf of the electoral commission,” he said. “Not the government. That’s different, because the government encourages people to vote for staying in the EU, whereas we don’t take a stand but just want to persuade people to vote.”
He said great interest in the referendum had been shown by British expats in Cyprus. “They have concerns about residency, health care and work permits. We direct people to our website, where they can find information, for example on the economic consequences,” Todd said. “But we don’t influence people. It is really not sure what will happen if we leave the UK. It’s a leap in the dark because it depends on the agreements which will be negotiated after the vote. Each person must weigh the consequences.
“But one thing is for sure: if you don’t register you don’t have a say. This is a once in a generation chance.”
The High Commissioner said procedures for registering to vote were extremely straightforward and could be done within five minutes by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. Voters can vote by post, by proxy where the voter can nominate someone they trust to vote for them in the UK and voting in person which must be done in the UK on June 23. The deadline for registering for a proxy vote and to vote in person is June 7.
Though in some countries balloting is possible in British embassies and high commissions, this is not the case in Cyprus.
The website with information on the referendum can be found here https://www.eureferendum.gov.uk/