Tuesday

7th Jul 2020

UK to block 1.5m EU citizens from referendum

  • Yousaf said it's illogical to 'disenfranchise [the 1.5m] over their own future' (Photo: secretlondon123)

Most of the 1.5 million citizens from other EU countries living in the UK will be excluded from voting in its referendum on EU membership, the UK government has said.

In a statement on Monday (25 May), it announced that citizens from just three EU countries - Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus - along with residents from Commonwealth countries, will be eligible.

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Malta and Cyprus are Commonwealth members, while Irish citizens have the right to vote in the UK.

UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years will also have the right to vote in the ‘in/out’ poll, which prime minister David Cameron has promised will take place before the end of 2017.

More than 2 million Britons live and work elsewhere in the EU.

The rules governing the referendum will be set out in an EU Referendum Bill set to be introduced in Westminster on Thursday.

It will be broadly the same as for a general election, rather than local or European elections, when all EU citizens are able to vote. In total, just over 45 million people will be eligible. Unlike the referendum on Scottish independence held last September, the franchise will not include 16 and 17-year-olds.

The exclusions were criticised by Humza Yousaf, the Europe minister in the Scottish government, who said the UK government risks using “the rhetoric of division”.

"Excluding EU citizens, many of whom live here for a number of years, pay their taxes, their children attend local schools, to disenfranchise them over their own future in this vote is illogical, is utterly perverse and creates a democratic deficit,” he said.

The Scottish National party and the opposition Labour party want the voting age to be lowered to 16 and are expected to join forces to table amendments.

For his part, Ukip leader Nigel Farage welcomed the proposed rules as “sensible and reasonable”.

The government is considering whether to launch a Treasury study into the economic impact on Britain if it leaves the 28-country bloc or is able to obtain reforms.

Last week, the Bank of England accidentally revealed that it has begun a secret audit to examine the potential costs of a Brexit.

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