Voting Rights

Department for Exiting the European Union written statement – made at on 21 January 2019.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Today, I can confirm that the Government has reached a reciprocal agreement with Spain that will secure the rights of UK nationals in Spain, and Spanish citizens in the UK, to stand and vote in local elections now and in the future. This is a positive step forward in our future relationship with Spain and we hope this will be the first of many similar bilateral agreements with other Member States.

This agreement with Spain is the first of its kind and secures the democratic rights of over 300,000 UK nationals who are now able to continue exercising their right to vote and stand in local Spanish elections, including the upcoming election in May 2019.

Citizens have always been our priority in the negotiations for our departure from the EU, and in particular to protect the rights of British expats. The UK advocated the inclusion in the Withdrawal Agreement of the right to vote and stand in local elections for UK nationals living in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, but the EU did not want to include these rights within the scope of the agreement. Instead, we have been clear that we will pursue these rights on a bilateral basis and that the right of EU citizens to vote in local elections in the UK should be considered alongside the rights of UK nationals. It has always been our priority to secure these reciprocally.

To provide certainty while we pursue these agreements, we do not anticipate any changes to the current primary legislative framework for candidacy and voting rights being made before the May 2019 English and Northern Ireland local elections. These are devolved competences and the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are responsible for their own franchises in local and devolved assembly elections. It is the policy intent of the UK Government that candidates who are validly nominated and elected at the May 2019 local elections in England and Northern Ireland should be able to serve that term of office in full.

I will be depositing the agreement in the libraries of both Houses.