Lib Dems fight for expat votes at EU referendum

October 14, 2015 8:49 AM

Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords are fighting to ensure all British citizens living in other EU countries, as well as EU citizens in the UK, have a vote in the referendum on our EU membership. Currently, only those Britons living outside the UK for less than 15 years will have a vote. Likewise, only citizens of Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus resident in the UK will be eligible, but not those from France, Sweden, or Poland.

Liberal Democrats are therefore seeking to amend the Referendum Bill during its Second Reading in the House of Lords to extend the franchise to three key groups: all Britons living in other EU countries (regardless of time spent there), all citizens of other European Union countries resident in the UK, and all 16-17 year olds.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the Lords, said:

"We support extending the franchise for the referendum to UK citizens who have been living and working elsewhere within the EU for more than 15 years, which is the current cut-off for non-resident voters. We will also be putting down an amendment to allow EU citizens who have become long-term residents within the UK to vote in the referendum; they already have the right to vote in local and European elections here, so in many cases are already on the register."

Giles Goodall, Chair of Brussels & Europe Liberal Democrats, said:

"The right to live and work anywhere in the European Union is an essential part of our EU membership. Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up for EU citizens in the UK and Brits living in the rest of Europe. Both of these groups must have a say on Britain's EU membership and both must have a right to vote in the referendum."

BackgroundBrussels and Europe Liberal Democrats, the party's European branch, have long campaigned for the voting rights of British citizens living abroad. The party adopted a new policy at its Autumn Conference in Bournemouth last month to ensure all Britons in other EU countries and all EU citizens in the UK are able to vote in the EU referendum. The Referendum Bill makes no allowance for these groups to vote and the party's peers are therefore seeking to amend the legislation in the House of Lords. Whilst neither the Labour nor Conservative parties support the policy, some of their members along with crossbench peers are expected to vote for the amendments.