In the UK's 2016 EU referendum, UK citizens that have lived outside of the UK for 15 years or more were not allowed to vote.
The Guardian, April 2016

How many people were barred from participating under this rule? I can only find vague estimates along the lines of "millions", such as the above link.

  • 6
    Are you sure that accurate data will exist for this? By the nature of the constraints these are people with limited ties to the UK, and I don't think that any British organisation keeps a formal register of expatriates.
    – origimbo
    Nov 4, 2016 at 18:14
  • 1
    I have no idea what data is available, but I hope there's enough to make a reasonable estimate or even an "at least" figure because perhaps we know how many are, say, living in Spain.
    – billpg
    Nov 5, 2016 at 15:56
  • I think the “millions” in question are all Britons living abroad, most of which still had the right to vote in this referendum in spite of this 15-years rule. I recall reading about an estimate in the hundreds of thousands (was it 400000?), also in the Guardian, but I can't find the source right now.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 5, 2016 at 22:28

1 Answer 1


There is no clear data on this. It's not even certain how many British nationals are living in other countries:

The data on the total number of expatriate Britons is also uncertain: the IPPR found 5.5 million Britons live abroad, while the World Bank puts the total at 4.7m.

Most sources report the 5.5 million number though (which, of course, doesn't mean it's true).

Sources differ even more on the the number of people who haven't lived in the U.K. for more than 15 years, and most of them acknowledge that there's no easy way to get this figure.

The 2 million figure is by far the most common, but I don't know what the source of that number is (and "up to 2M", "roughly 2M", and "more than 2M" are all quite different). It could just be that this number is the result of news outlets parroting each other, which is not uncommon with these sort of "soft numbers".

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