Thursday 22 February 2018

Irish in UK to get vote in poll on staying member of the EU

David Hughes London

Citizens from most EU countries living in the UK will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels - but Irish citizens living there will have a say.

The franchise for referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election - meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in the UK will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.

Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with David Cameron at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence.

Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to parliament on Thursday, the day after the Queen's Speech. The Bill will make clear the franchise will be based on that for a general election, plus members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar.

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will be eligible to vote, as well as UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years. Eurosceptics had claimed that as many as 1.5 million people from other EU countries could have been allowed to vote in the plebiscite if it had taken place under the rules for local government elections, which citizens of other member states can participate in. Official figures show the total number of UK parliamentary electors in 2014 was 45.3 million while the number of local government electors was 46.8 million.

Meanwhile, the British Labour Party has dropped its opposition to holding the referendum.

Acting leader Harriet Harman said her party would support the legislation paving the way for the referendum, removing a potential obstacle to the public vote.

It marks an about-turn for the party, which had rejected the idea under Ed Miliband.

Irish Independent

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