The Liberal Democrats have called for all EU citizens living in the UK and British expats in other EU countries to have a vote in Britain's referendum on its European Union membership, following a debate yesterday at the party's conference in Bournemouth.
The 'Winning in Europe' motion sets out the party's policy on the forthcoming referendum, and includes an amendment proposed by the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats to widen the franchise to include both groups. Both the amendment and the motion as a whole were carried overwhelmingly by conference delegates.
The decision means that the Liberal Democrats are the only party backing a franchise for EU citizens and British expats in Europe at the referendum. The party also wants to include 16-17 year olds, who already had a vote in the referendum on Scottish independence.
Speaking in the debate, Giles Goodall, Chair of Brussels & Europe Lib Dems, highlighted the benefits of Britain's EU membership for free movement, with 2.2 million British citizens living in other EU countries and a similar number of other EU citizens calling the UK their home:
"EU citizens are our colleagues, our friends, our partners, and our neighbours. They work, pay taxes, help to pay off our deficit, they do their best to build something in life, just like the rest of us. Yet apart from those from Cyprus, Malta, and Ireland, they won't have a vote in this crucial decision. This is their home too and they should have a say."
Calling for an end to the rule which excludes British citizens abroad from voting in the UK after 15 years, he said:
"The Conservative government has finally accepted the need to give British citizens abroad their votes back. Yet scandalously, they have specifically excluded them from the franchise for the EU referendum. Britons living and working in other European countries are doing so thanks to our EU membership and it is vital they have a say in the referendum."
"I'm delighted that the Liberal Democrats have backed our long-time campaign to include all EU citizens in the UK and all UK citizens in the EU in the referendum. The Liberal Democrats are the only truly pro-European party in Britain and are the only ones who will stand up for the rights of both EU citizens and Brits in Europe."
The 'Winning in Europe' motion was carried overwhelmingly by delegates in a vote at the Liberal Democrat conference on 20 September. An amendment to include 1) All 16 and 17 year olds, 2) All EU citizens resident in the UK, 3) all UK citizens resident in the EU was proposed by the Brussels & Europe Liberal Democrats and conference delegates from around the country. It was also carried overwhelmingly.
The motion sets out the party's policy on the coming referendum and builds on existing policy in the General Election and European Election manifestos. The provisions on the franchise in the Referendum Bill build on existing policy on voting rights in policy paper 117 Power to the People, which calls for an end to disenfranchisement of British citizens abroad and to explore the viability of 'overseas constituencies' to represent Britons abroad.
Further information: contact Giles Goodall firstname.lastname@example.org