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Lords argue 5m Brits living abroad should get vote in EU referendum

Lords today discussed whether Brits who have lived abroad for more than 15 years should get a vote in the EU referendum Photo: Ben Stansall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Peers from all parties in the House of Lords have argued all five million British citizens living abroad should be given a vote on Britain's in-out referendum on EU membership.

Any British person who hasn't lived in the UK in the last 15 years currently cannot register to vote in elections and referendums. Conservative and Labour front-bench peers argued in favour of keeping the rule, but Lords from all sides of the chamber also called for it to be scrapped.

The proposed amendment to the EU Referendum Bill called for abolishing the 15-year rule for those Britons who are living abroad in European Union countries, but a number of peers called for it to be scrapped worldwide. There are an estimated 5.2 million Brits living abroad with 1.3 million residing in other EU nations. There is no breakdown of how many have been outside the UK for more than 15 years.

It would be wrong to exclude those British nationals who have been living and working in the European Union.

– Lord Tugendhat, Conservative peer

Conservative peer Viscount Trenchard argued against allowing those outside the UK to vote, saying "no taxation without representation".

The proposed amendment was withdrawn, but is likely to be discussed again at the report stage.

The Lords heard only around 113,000 Britons abroad registered to vote in the last general election.