Clause 11 - Voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens

Part of Elections Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 21st October 2021.

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Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Minister for Equalities, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (jointly with Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 12:30 pm, 21st October 2021

Clause 11 and schedule 7, which is associated with it, amend the voting and candidacy rights of European Union citizens. The law as it stands reflects our old obligations under EU law. It grants local voting and candidacy rights automatically to all EU citizens resident in England and Northern Ireland. That extends to Wales for police and crime commissioner elections. Since those rights were granted under freedom of movement rules, no immigration-based eligibility requirements are attached to them. Now that the UK has left the EU, it is no longer appropriate for there to be a continued automatic right to vote in, and to stand in, local elections solely by virtue of being an EU citizen. The concept of the UK participating in joint EU citizenship has ended.

The clause and the associated schedule will remove the automatic granting of rights to EU citizens to vote, to register to vote, and to stand in all levels of council election and referendums in England, Greater London Assembly and mayoral elections, elections for local authority and combined authority mayors in England, council elections in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

The Government believe that the voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens living here must be considered alongside those of citizens of the UK living in EU member states. The Government’s approach is a sensible one of recognising established rights, while moving to new bilateral agreements with individual nation states in the EU. That ensures we are protecting the rights of British citizens living in EU countries.

To give effect to that intention, the clause and the associated schedule will grant local voting and candidacy rights only to those EU citizens legally resident in the UK who are from countries with which the UK has a voting and candidacy rights treaty. Such treaties will ensure the preservation of voting and candidacy rights for citizens of the UK living in EU member states with which such a treaty has been agreed. We have four such treaties, and we remain open to negotiating with other EU countries.

Over and above that, provisions are included to honour our commitment to respect the rights of those EU citizens who chose to make their home in the UK before our departure from the EU. The relevant provisions preserve the rights of all EU citizens who were resident in the UK at the end of the implementation period and have lawful immigration status to vote and stand in local elections. In line with Home Office policy, specific and limited exceptions are included in the provisions, which relate to the operation of the grace period regulations and the EU settlement scheme.

I draw Members’ attention to part 4 of the schedule, which gives effect to the Government’s public commitment that persons elected to office before the measures come into effect will be enabled to serve their full term in office. Additionally, the Government have tabled minor and technical amendments that do not change the intended scope or effect of the provisions but ensure that they will operate as intended. The Government therefore urge hon. Members to accept the amendments, and to agree that clause 11 stand part and that schedule 7 be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.