Voting rights must go hand in hand with freedom of movement

02 June 2016

Today in the European Parliament UK voting rights campaigners Jacqui Cotterrill and Harry Shindler had their petitions presented calling for an end to a loss of franchise for UK citizens who choose to exercise their right to free movement within the EU.

British citizens are currently entitled to vote in national elections and special referenda, such as the EU one, for up to 15 years after they have left the UK.

Similar voting rights problems exist for citizens from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, and Malta.

Jude Kirton-Darling, Member of the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee said:

“People who decide to exercise their right to free movement should not be disenfranchised at a national level or on big questions such as the EU referendum. People who have lived abroad in other EU member states for 15 years or more will have no say on whether the UK Remains or Leaves the EU. There are up to 2 million Brits living and working around the EU who won't be able to participate in the Referendum despite being British. Freedom of movement and democratic rights should work in tandem.

“The European Commission has previously looked at this problem and recommended to Member States to extent the franchise to those citizens living outside of their country of origin. Mr Timmermans, the European Commissioner who is responsible for EU citizens' rights, needs to take greater action to ensure that citizens’ concerns over their rights are fully addressed to national governments of EU countries.”

Petitioner Jacqui Cotterrill, said:

“I raised this issue over 4 years ago with the European Commission in the Petitions Committee. No action was taken then to raise this issue directly with UK Government by the Commission. Now I find myself in a situation where I might wake up the day after the Referendum as resident alien living in Spain having had no democratic say on the matter. Not having a vote in this referendum runs counter to the democratic ideals of the European Union.

“Obviously it is too late for British people living abroad for more than 15 years to vote in the EU Referendum but the Commission needs to outline how it proposes to challenge EU countries in the future to offer all citizens their full democratic rights along with the freedom of movement.”

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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