- Boris Johnson’s government is proposing a new law that would make it easier for non-resident Britons to finance UK elections.
- The change in law is touted as a way to make it easier for British “expats” to vote in the UK.
- However, campaigners say it is a “Trojan horse” for more foreign money to fund UK elections.
The UK government is proposing a new law that will make it easier to finance UK elections for tax exiles and non-domiciled Britons, activists have warned.
the Election Bill, released on Monday, would allow UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years to register to vote, giving them the right to vote for life and to finance UK elections.
Under the new rules, foreign voters would not have had to appear on a UK voters list before to vote or donate to political parties.
Since 2009, legislation has remained inactive in the UK law books which would ban donations from non-domiciled UK citizens.
However, the law never entered into force, as the tax status of non-domiciled natural persons is confidential and therefore cannot be verified by regulators or political parties, the Times reported in 2019.
UK citizens living abroad can already donate through companies registered in the UK which are ultimately owned overseas – and anyone can donate through non-profit associations. phantom incorporated without verification. However, foreign voters are currently required to re-register every year.
The ruling Conservative Party accepted over £ 1million from UK citizens living in tax havens ahead of the 2017 general election through existing methods, the Times reported. The new law will remove these barriers.
MP Cat Smith, the shadow Minister of Democracy for the opposition Labor Party, told Insider: “The Conservatives are using pandemic coverage to sneak in unprecedented changes to our foreign political donation laws.
“This is yet another example of the Conservatives bending the rules to their advantage, making it legal for wealthy Conservative donors living abroad to fund the Conservative Party.
“This loophole will allow foreign political donations to flood our system, undermining the integrity of our democracy. It is about changing the rules for the benefit of the Conservative Party with overseas donors able to legally donate for finance their campaigns from their offshore tax havens or their luxury second homes.
“Foreign donors should not be allowed to financially influence our democratic processes – this right is reserved for citizens living in this country.”
Campaigners warn that the bill is being used as a “Trojan horse” to channel financial donations from non-domiciled sources and that it opens up UK politics to “outside influence”.
Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy and former Liberal Democrat MP, told Insider: “The Election Bill must not be used as a Trojan horse to allow foreign money to distort election results. UK. donations, questions will be asked about tax-free performance.
Dr Jess Garland, director of policy and research, Electoral Reform Society, told Insider: “The extension of the right to vote for our elections is a positive step, but the government must carefully consider the risks of removing the restrictions. imposed on voters overseas – the consequence of which could see an increase in foreign political donations.
“There remain a number of loopholes in our election financing rules that leave the door open to foreign influence on our politics. This election bill fails to address these concerns while potentially creating new avenues for foreign financial donations.
The government defended the change in the law as an attempt to expand the right to vote.
MP Chloe Smith, Minister of State for Constitution and Devolution, told Insider: “Our commitment to remove the arbitrary 15-year limit on overseas voting rights is a promise to citizens of all countries. political horizons This is best exemplified by a 99-year-old veteran activist, Harry Shindler, who also happens to be the oldest member of the Labor Party.
‘British citizens living abroad have a constant interest in politics in the UK and in our increasingly digital world, people living abroad are able to be more connected to their home country. origin. It is normal that they can have a say in our democracy. “