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EM Ireland: Just the Facts – Voting abroad in Brexit

Just the Facts

Voting from abroad in the UK referendum on EU membership

On Thursday 23 June, the UK will hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union. In this Just the Facts, which is part of a series European Movement Ireland is producing on the forthcoming referendum, we look at the methods of voting in the referendum, now that the deadlines for registering have been set.

How do British people living abroad vote?

British people living abroad, including in Ireland, must apply to vote by post or by proxy in order to be able to vote from outside the UK. Helpful information can be found online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Voting by post

In order for British people who were born in England, Scotland and Wales and are now living abroad to register to vote by post in the upcoming referendum on EU membership, they must send a completed application form to their local Electoral Registration Office. The Electoral Commission recommends that registration is done by 5pm on Monday 16 May. However, registration officially closes at 5pm on Tuesday 7 June, or at 5pm on Monday 6 June for people not already registered to vote. The Electoral Commission recommends the earlier date in order to allow enough time for ballot papers to be sent out to voters and for them to be completed and sent back.

Once voter registration is closed and all ballot papers are printed, ballot papers will be sent out to registered voters. The local Electoral Registration Offices can inform when this will be. Completed ballot papers must arrive back to the local Electoral Registration Offices by 10pm on Thursday 23 June.

If a voter has a postal vote but then happens to be in the UK on referendum day, they can hand their ballot paper in person into their local Electoral Registration Office or local polling station by 10pm on Thursday 23 June.

A different system applies for British and eligible Irish citizens who were born in Northern Ireland and are now living abroad. In this case, according to the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, postal voting is not possible because postal votes cannot be sent outside the UK.

Voting by proxy

A proxy vote means that a registered voter can vote on behalf of another registered voter who is living abroad.

In order for British people who were born in England, Scotland and Wales and are now living abroad to register to vote by proxy, they must send a completed application form to their local Electoral Registration Office. Three deadlines apply:

  • It must arrive by 5pm on Tuesday 7 June for people not already registered to vote;
  • It must arrive by 5pm on Wednesday 8 June when changing or cancelling an existing proxy vote;
  • It must arrive by 5pm on Wednesday 15 June for a new proxy vote.

A different system applies for British and eligible Irish citizens who were born in Northern Ireland and are now living abroad. In this case, the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland application form must arrive at the voter’s Area Electoral Office by 5pm on Friday 3 June, with section 6 on details of the proxy voter completed.

If a voter has appointed a proxy vote but then happens to be in the UK on referendum day, they can vote in person at the polling station as long as the proxy has not already voted on their behalf.


This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members. For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.

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