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EU Nationals: Voting Rights

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

Whether the Government plan to grant EU nationals living in the UK the right to vote in general elections.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

No, we do not intend to grant that right. The Representation of the People Act 1918 sets out which non-UK nationals resident in the UK can vote in our parliamentary elections. The right is restricted to citizens from Commonwealth countries, including Malta and Cyprus, and to those from the Republic of Ireland who meet UK residency requirements.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

We currently give Commonwealth citizens, who may have been here only one month, but there are no reciprocal rights for British citizens to vote in Commonwealth countries. Why do we not give the right to vote to EU citizens, who may have lived here for 20 years, paying tax throughout that time? Do the Government not believe in representation and taxation?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

First, it is right to pay tribute to the contribution to this country that EU citizens make, have made and will continue to make in the future. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and other Ministers have set out, we welcome that contribution to the life of our nation, and we are making the settled status scheme available in order to further it. However, as far as we are aware, no other EU member state currently allows non-nationals to vote in national elections—besides Ireland, which has a long-standing bilateral agreement with the UK—so we think our approach is reasonable.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs

The Minister acknowledges the contribution that EU citizens have made here in Britain. Of course, during the transition, EU citizens currently have the right to vote and stand for election at local level. Many EU nationals are currently serving as local councillors up and down the country for all political parties. What commitment can she make that EU nationals who currently serve in local government as locally elected councillors will be able to complete their term of office? Can she give them any guidance on whether they will be able to seek re-election and whether the communities they serve will be able to re-elect them?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am absolutely confident that the hon. Lady is a close reader of all parliamentary questions that are answered in this House, and she will know that we have already answered that question on the record. Those who are elected to office will be able to serve their full term, including those elected before 2020. As I say, I am repeating my answer to an earlier parliamentary questions so the House is clear that EU citizens will be able to vote and stand in the May elections.