MALAGA: Chair of Costa Tories disputes 15-year rule

As the EU referendum approaches, the conversation about who can and should vote has gone into hyper drive. It is expected that 700,000 expats in Spain alone will be excluded from the vote due to the failed bid to overturn the implementation of the 15-year rule.

That rule states that any UK citizen who has been living outside the UK for more than 15 years will not be allowed to vote in the EU referendum.

Chairman of the Conservatives abroad for the Costa del Sol, Christine Rowlands, has argued against the implementation of the 15-year rule. Rowlands has lived in Spain since the 1980s and will therefore be exempt from the vote, which she believes is unfair.

Christine Rowlands, chairperson of Costa Del Sol Conservatives. Photo courtesy of Christine Rowlands/Facebook

Christine Rowlands, chairperson of Costa Del Sol Conservatives. Photo courtesy of Christine Rowlands/Facebook

“We have been disfranchised,” she says. “I am a resident and have properties [in Spain], but also have properties in England and pay tax there, thus not to be able to vote is not right in my opinion.

Rowlands admits she has been told privately by Conservative leaders that the House of Lords will debating the rule shortly.

“I have been told that the appeal against the 15-year rule will go through this time,” she says. “However it won’t be in time for people like myself to vote, so it’s a case of to too little too late. If there is another vote we may be able to participate, but for the vote that matters most we can’t.”

The British ambassador Sir Simon Manley paid a visit to the city of Malaga as recently as last week to encourage UK citizens in Spain who were eligible to vote to do so. Rowlands did not attend this meeting, but held one of her own and says it was made clear that she wasn’t alone in how she felt.

“We held a meeting on Friday which was mostly about Brexit but the 15-year rule did come into play,” she says. “And from the residents I’ve talked to they are mostly to stay in the EU and why wouldn’t they be. They’ve lived here for a long time, but still have interest in England.”

And for those expats who don’t seem to care about voting or the outcome of the referendum, Rowlands has a strong message.

“This is the most important vote of their life,” she says. “If we leave the EU we will be isolated. Thus they need to take their opportunity to vote.”

Alpha Ceesay




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