British expats can vote in referendum

British citizens here are eligible to vote in the European Union Referendum June 23 if they have been registered to vote at a United Kingdom address in the last 15 years, the embassy here said.

Those who wish to appoint someone else to vote for them need to apply for a proxy by June 15, said the embassy. There also is the possibility of a maIl ballot, said the Gov.UK Web site.

The referendum question is should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? The vote is being called  Brexit, and the question has become a heated one splitting leading British politicians.

Last month, during a visit to London, U.S. President Barack Obama urged the British to vote to remain in the European Union, only to provoke sharp-tongued responses from campaigners and Britain’s press.

British Prime Minister David Cameron set the date for the referendum, although he opposes leaving the European Union. Cameron promised to set up the referendum if he was reelected in 2015 to appease the Conservative Party and undermine EU opponents.

Conservatives, now in the majority, have been split on the question of EU membership for some 40 years. Grassroots Conservatives generally favor leaving the EU.

Proponents of a British exit believe it would free Britain from rules that are adverse to job creation and allow the country to choose its laws and trading partners. EU advocates contend Britain should maintain its membership in a bloc of like-minded countries, a move they say would help sustain the country’s global influence and military and economic security.

Many foreign leaders want Britain to stay in the EU.

With Britain, the less statist EU members, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Scandinavian and Baltic states as well as Germany, are able to block proposals they don’t like on the EU Council. Without Britain, they would fall short of the necessary 35 percent of votes needed to veto measures.

Brexit would also deprive Germany of an ally in trying to keep EU spending down.

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, alluded recently to Britain’s key role when it comes to free-market ideas.

“Thanks partly to the British, the European Union has less wasteful agricultural and fishery policies, a liberal single market, a commitment to free trade,” he said. “Without the U.K., the EU will be less liberal, less efficient and less influential on the world stage,” he warned.

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