Australia’s British expats could play a vital role in whether or not Britain remains in the European Union (EU), as around 1.2 million British citizens living here are eligible to vote in the landmark referendum on Thursday.
More British expats – dubbed Brexpats – live in Australia than in any other country, and with the contest between choosing to remain or leave the EU tightening, the swing from Australian-based British citizens could help swing the vote, Xinhua news agency reported.
James Cameron, from the School of Politics and International Relations at Canberra’s Australian National University (ANU), said the local British expat vote would be “influential” in the final count.
“A lot of those expats would have been here longer than 15 years, but even if a quarter of those (have registered to vote) then that could still play a part in the final vote,” Cameron told News Corp on Thursday.
“It will certainly be influential.”
Ellie Warren, who has lived in Australia for almost five years, voted for Britain to remain in the EU as the Brexit (common term used for Britain’s exit from the EU) campaign was made up of scare tactics and “fear-mongering”.
“Economics is the most obvious reason, but I can’t stand the ‘leave’ campaign, which is just fear-mongering and racist,” she told News Corp.
Meanwhile other expats were concerned by the strain on the nation’s welfare system under the liberal immigration policy under the EU.
“They’re letting too many people into the country and letting them live on benefits straight away without working,” Jackie Lamburn, who supports Brexit, told the ABC.
Australian politicians have also weighed in on the debate, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying that an exit from the EU would cause “a degree” of global economic “shock”, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said remaining in the EU would be better for Australia.
“To have a like-minded partner within the European Union would be in Australia’s interest,” Bishop said.