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BREXIT

No-deal Brexit: British pensions to be uprated until 2022 if UK crashes out of EU

The British government announced on Tuesday that state pensions for pensioners living in the EU will be uprated each year until 2022 if the UK crashes out of the EU on October 31st without a deal.

No-deal Brexit: British pensions to be uprated until 2022 if UK crashes out of EU
Photo: AFP

Previously the government had announced that pensions would be uprated just for 2019/2020 if there is no deal, but with a no-deal Brexit having grown increasingly likely in recent weeks, the government has extended the guarantee for each year until 2022.

That means pensions will be uprated until the end of the 2022 tax year which is in March 2023.

Uprating essentially means an increase in the value of a state pension based on the ‘triple lock’ mechanism, and guarantees that the basic state pension will rise by a minimum of either 2.5 percent, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is largest.

While pensions have been uprated for British pensioners living in the EU they are not for others living in certain countries like Canada or Australia.

The new three-year, no-deal guarantee is to give the UK government the time to negotiate either EU-wide or bilateral agreements with member states in order for uprating to be continued.

There are nearly half a million British pensioners living throughout the EU. The government says pensioners will soon receive text messages alerting them to the new guarantee.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, once a vocal critic of a no-deal Brexit said: “We will be fully ready for Brexit and are leaving in a way that protects the interests of citizens here and in EU member states”.

If the UK manages to secure a deal with the EU in the next few weeks, the Withdrawal Agreement guarantees that uprating will continue for life for those British pensioners already living in the EU.

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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