This week a letter in the GDN expressed the view that a vote to stay in or exit the EU in Britain should be only for British citizens who are residents in the UK. The reasoning was along the lines of if you choose not to live there then you should have no say. I think this reasoning is a bit simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst.
There are many reasons why citizens of a country who do not currently live there should still have a say in major decisions.
For a start many of the British citizens who live in Bahrain did not come here as freely as you imagine, some will have been sent by their employers as a secondment or part of a training regime.
Some came to Bahrain to take up employment opportunities that were not available to them at home. There are some who did come here by choice to live in this wonderful climate, among the friendly Bahrainis.
Last week HSBC released a survey which showed that Bahrain was the friendliest place for British expats to live. However, most of them, who live in Bahrain have plans to return home at some point, either when they have made enough money or they secure an appropriate job.
Some stay to retirement but find the conditions to remain resident too difficult to fulfil and so have to go back as well.
All of these people will be affected by the state of the country they return to and so they have a great interest in the decisions made. Many will have kept homes in the UK during their tenure here and will have paid council tax, electricity and water.
Many will have continued to pay their National Insurance contributions to entitle them to a retirement pension and so will also have a right to be involved.
By and large the vast majority will be taking back to Britain assets which will be of benefit to Britain, I’m not just talking cash here but experience which may be passed on to a younger generation in the way of training or even by them setting up new businesses.
For British citizens who have been out of Britain for more than 15 years, they are not entitled to a vote anyway due to a rule put in place by the last Labour government, a rule which a former resident of Bahrain, Heather Harper, in her role as chairman of Conservatives Abroad is working to overturn.
No one can say with certainty at the moment whether it will be a good thing or not for Britain to leave the EU at this point but it is such a major decision that it needs to be open to all who are going to be affected by it, which means all who live there at the moment and the citizens who are planning to return in the next few years.
I am past the 15 years mark so at present I would not have a vote but if I did then I would vote to remain in the EU as I believe there are three major trading blocs at the moment, the US, China and the EU and as a major industrialised country it would be better for Britain to be in one of those blocs.
It should be an interesting few months.