The December election Part 2: voting tactically to secure a remainer majority and safeguard our rights

You don't need us to tell you that the election on 12 December really is the Big One: our future rights, as British citizens who've exercised our free movement rights to live in France, depend on its outcome. It doesn't come more critical than that. So in the two articles in this series we've gathered together everything that you need to know about whether you can vote, how to vote, and how to decide who to vote for.

The first article covered the practicals to do with voting - how to register, how to vote, how to become involved even if you can't vote and so on.

In this second article we look at what the different outcomes of the election could mean for our future rights and how best to use that information to make an informed choice about who to vote for in your constituency.

What might the different outcomes mean for our future rights?

Conservative majority
Many of the moderates have stood down, which means the party's makeup will have changed and its MPs will have been elected on a pledge to pass Johnson's deal. This means that approval of the Withdrawal Agreement may be more likely than not: the UK could leave the EU at the end of the extension and move straight into the transition period. If the majority is small, there could be a return to chaos as Johnson tries to negotiate the future relationship. Brexit could still end in no deal at the end of the transition period, although the Withdrawal Agreement (which includes citizens' rights) would still stand.

Labour majority
We don't really know what this would mean for Brexit (and Labour is likely to concentrate its campaign on non-Brexit issues), but following the resolution at conference Labour has said that it would legislate for a second referendum immediately on winning the election. Within 3 months, it says, it would 'negotiate a sensible deal' and within 6 months would put that deal to the public with a choice between leaving with that deal or staying in the EU. This must be the best chance we have of the UK staying in the EU and us retaining all our current rights. As things stand currently though, the odds on a Labour majority are said to be low.

No majority but Conservatives are the largest party
If Johnson falls short of a majority, we risk chaos - it's hard to see this time where they would find 'confidence and supply' partners as the DUP has already rejected the Withdrawal Agreement. With just 6 weeks from election day to the end of the extension period, timing is tight. It would be a very tense period for us with huge uncertainty around our future rights.

No majority but Labour are the largest party
In theory, there could be the numbers for an informal coalition with the Lib Dems/SNP to pass a second referendum. But if Lib Dem votes were needed to get Labour into power, they could demand a new leader - which Labour is unlikely to go along with, at least in the short term. If an agreement were reached, it could be short-term and fractious. As to our rights ... once again the prospect of a second referendum offers the best chance of retaining all our current rights.

So who should I vote for?

We can't tell you or even suggest who you should vote for - but what we can do is give you information and make clear what the options and ramifications are so you can make an informed choice.

France Rights, like British in Europe, is 'political party neutral', which means that we don't support or endorse any single party. As a citizens' rights group we favour the outcome with the least loss of rights.

In any kind of Brexit, even leaving with a Withdrawal Agreement, British citizens living in the EU lose important rights. The best way to protect our current rights is for the UK to stay in the EU - that's the only way we can retain our EU citizenship and the rights that go with it such as freedom of movement, recognition of professional qualifications, cross border service provision, and political and voting rights.

Our only chance of keeping EU citizenship is to elect parties that expressly support remaining in the EU or the holding of a second referendum with a remain option. Pro-Brexit parties will take the UK out of the EU as quickly as possible, with the risk of no deal at different stages of the process. If this happens, the best case scenario for us would be for the UK to exit with a deal, because no deal leaves us very much worse off than a deal.

Tactical voting

For those of us who want to preserve our rights and see the UK remaining in the EU, the December election will be all about casting an 'effective' vote rather than voting along party loyalty lines. Because of the UK's first past the post electoral system, voting effectively may mean voting for a party that you would not normally support in order to stop another party from winning.

For example, let's say that you actually support a party that wants to revoke Article 50, but your vote is in a constituency where 'your' party has no chance of winning. Instead, the result is likely to be played out between a party which you strongly dislike and just wants to 'get Brexit done' at any cost, and a party which you somewhat dislike, is unclear about Brexit but which offers the option of a second referendum. Voting tactically would mean choosing to vote for the party you somewhat dislike - this avoids 'wasting' your vote on a party that can't win the seat, and boosts the chance that the party you dislike most will lose. It's holding your nose and about choosing the 'least worst' option.

This graphic from The Guardian shows how the results could change if remain voters vote tactically (and if they don't). Tactical voting might stick in the gullet for some, but it's a sobering thought what might happen if people don't do it.

If you're struggling with the concept of voting tactically for a party that wouldn't be your first choice, here is a really helpful and well thought out Twitter thread by Steve Bullock: It might just help you through a moral dilemma.

How to vote tactically

To decide how to vote tactically and effectively in your own constituency, you'll need to do a bit of homework.

There are several website tools that will make this easier for you.  (Best for Britain)  (People's Vote - you have to sign up) (Gina Miller's site, launching 9 November)

Remember that candidate lists aren't final until Thursday 14 November, so until then it's best to treat voting suggestions from these websites as provisional.

IMPORTANT: do make sure you 'shop around' and try out all the tactical voting tools, as results may vary according to how they analyse the projections and figures. Make a balanced decision taking into account as many aspects and opinions as possible.

If you haven't yet read Part 1 of this article, which looks at the nuts and bolts of getting registered to vote and how to vote, you can find it here


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