The removal of the “15-year rule” – a case of too little too late




Votes for life due to be rolled out – too little too late.

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On Friday, 7 October, there was a monumental announcement from the cabinet office, namely that the 15 year rule, which was the rule that had prevented me and countless others from voting in the UK Referendum on Membership of the EU, would be ditched and that there would be “votes for life” for Britons abroad.Should I be cracking open the champagne corks? Sadly for me it is a case of “too little too late”, and there are a plethora of analogies to express the timing of this decision. I would be deluded to think that my tweet to Theresa May (as yet still awaiting reply) a mere two days previously would be a straw that broke the camel’s back, its timing being merely serendipitously coincidental.

May had attacked multinational organisations with the remark “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” and “you don’t understand what citizenship means” – just as May herself doesn’t apparently wish to understand what an EU citizenship means for Britons in Europe.

So should I take solace that I will no longer be politically stateless should I choose to remain a British citizen after Britain chooses to leave the EU, putatively on 1 April 2019 (in light of May’s declaration that a Hard Brexit is being pursued, and Article 50 will be triggered by the end of March 2017 / end of Q1 2017)? Since the referendum my thoughts on what to do for my own personal well-being, in particular in relation to the well-being of my family, have seen the whole pendulum of emotions. My knee-jerk reaction was that I would take Austrian citizenship immediately, but then after some consideration, and seeing the Leave Campaign Leaders dropping like flies, I rethought my own stance as I didn’t want to be a quitter like them. However, in light of the way the arguments have started to develop, and the line that the new Prime Minister is taking of wanting to push for a Hard Brexit, Friday’s news notwithstanding, the outlook is fairly bleak for Britons in Europe. May’s announcement reached me in Rhodes, as I finally managed to visit the last remaining EU country I had yet to visit, Greece. The irony was not lost that Greece, a country tipped to have left the EU has not yet done so, while the UK is now on a hell-bent path to do so.

I am lucky that I am not servicing a EUR-denominated mortgage with earnings in sterling – from my own experience with a CHF-denominated mortgage prior to conversion in 2011 I know how difficult it can become. As things currently stand, I am starting the process of actively looking at taking Austrian citizenship, and am attending an informational event this week for fact-finding purposes.

Author: mdgb

British citizen, living in Austria since 2000.

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