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Saturday, May 25, 2024
HomeInformationCan EU Citizens Take Part in UK Elections After Brexit?

Can EU Citizens Take Part in UK Elections After Brexit?

Introduction

The UK’s departure from the European Union has created a great deal of uncertainty about the voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens in UK elections. To clear up this confusion, the UK Government issued the Elections Act 2022, which changed the voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens in England and Northern Ireland. This article provides insight on what this change means for EU citizens in the UK.

EU citizens’ voting rights before Brexit

The Representation of the People Act 1983 is a key piece of legislation that sets out who can vote in the UK. In 1996, an EU directive allowed citizens of an EU member state to vote and stand as a candidate in local elections of another member state if they were resident there. This only applied to local elections. The 1983 Act was amended to include the new eligibility after this directive was passed. Knowing this, it was clear that when the UK left the EU, citizens of all EU countries who were resident in the UK would retain their existing voting rights.

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The Elections Act 2022

The UK Government had wanted to make reciprocal voting rights part of the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU. However, this did not happen and instead, individual agreements were negotiated with Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and Poland. In April 2022, the Elections Act was passed which allowed for amendments to be made to the 1983 Act concerning voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens. The changes only applied in England and Northern Ireland and took effect after local elections in May 2024.

Voting rights for EU citizens in England and Northern Ireland

From May 7th 2024 onwards, EU citizens’ voting and candidacy rights will depend on when they moved to the UK and which country they are from. Those who arrived before 1st January 2021 will retain their voting rights if they retain a lawful immigration status. For those who arrived after this date, their rights will depend on whether there is a bilateral agreement between their home country and the UK. In Scotland and Wales, foreign nationals who are legally resident can vote or stand for elections for their local council or national parliament regardless of when they arrived in the UK.

Voting rights for British citizens in other EU countries

For British citizens living in other EU countries, their voting rights will depend on domestic law in those countries. In countries where non-EU citizens are not allowed to vote, British citizens lost their local election voting rights when the UK left the EU. However, in countries where domestic legislation allows all non-EU citizens to register to vote or where there is a reciprocal agreement with the UK (such as Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and Poland), British citizens living there will have voting rights provided they meet local residency and registration requirements.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear that with Brexit came changes to voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens in England and Northern Ireland. The rules differ depending on when an EU citizen arrived in the UK and which country they are from. Also, British citizens living in other EU countries will have different voting rights depending on domestic legislation or any reciprocal agreements with the UK. Understanding these changes is essential for all involved parties so that they can exercise their full rights come election time.

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