Cameron to stop 1.5 million European migrants living in the UK from voting in EU referendum
David Cameron is proposing barring the majority of EU citizens living in the UK from voting in the upcoming referendum on EU membership in accordance with a statement issued from Downing Street.
Cameron is also to rule out allowing 16 and 17 year olds from voting – despite them being allowed to vote in last year’s Scottish independence referendum. Pro-EU campaigners had wanted both groups to be eligible to cast their votes. On the age front, Labour have said that that it is a ‘matter of principle’ that those old enough to pay tax, marry and join the armed forces should be able to have a voice in such an important national decision and have promised to table an amendment to let them do so. The government has also ruled out British citizens living abroad, although it has stated that those who have been living abroad from less than 15 years will be able to vote.
Despite the above, many thousands of British Commonwealth citizens and approximately 800,000 Irish citizens living in the UK will be eligible to vote. The only countries which are members of both the EU and the Commonwealth are Malta and Cyprus. The number of EU migrants living in the UK who are to be excluded from voting is expected to exceed 1.5 million. Eurosceptic Tory MP Stewart Jackson applauded Cameron’s proposals. He has said that it would be ‘quite wrong’ for EU citizens living in the UK to be able to participate. ‘This referendum is about Britain’s future,’ he said. ‘It should be British citizens voting in it. EU citizens cannot vote in general elections, they could not vote in the referendum on an alternative voting system and they did not vote on the last referendum on Europe. The circumstances would have to be quite exceptional to depart from that precedent.’
Others have also hit out at Cameron’s proposals. One such individual is a member of the Scottish National Party, Christian Allard, a French-born Scottish politician who will not be allowed to have his say. ‘EU nationals across Scotland make incredible contributions to their communities and to our national life, pay taxes and contribute to the economy – and for their voices to be silenced on this crucial issue by an out-of-touch Tory government pandering to its own right wing and to Ukip would be nothing less than a democratic disgrace,’ he said. July last year, almost 90,000 EU nationals registered to vote in Scotland’s referendum and played a key role in the vibrant, democratic debate that the whole country took part in. For the Tories to now try to exclude thousands of people in Scotland, and well over a million across the UK, based simply on their nationality is completely indefensible. Mr Allard said everyone living in the UK should have a ‘fair say’ on their own future.
In contrast to Mr Allard’s views, there are others who believe that whatever the voting methods employed, EU exit may be in the UK’s best interest. ‘There has been too much scaremongering over Europe’, says Graeme MacDonald, the top executive of leading British manufacturing firm JCB. He believes that the impact on business if Britain were to leave to EU has been severely overhyped. Asked if it would be better for the UK to quit an unreformed EU, MacDonald has said, ‘I think it would be because I really don’t think it would make a blind bit of difference to trade with Europe. There has been far too much scaremongering about things like jobs. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop trade. I don’t think we or Brussels will put up trade barriers.’ At the same time, the company’s chairman and owner Lord Bamford, who is a Tory peer and donor, is of the belief that, ‘We could negotiate as our own country rather than being one of 28 nations in Brussels as we are today.’
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold an in-out referendum by 2017, but could bring it forward to 2016, after first seeking to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership. He has said that he wants a better deal for the country, with controls on immigration and an end to meddling from Brussels, which Mr MacDonald said was key.
So, what could the potential ramifications be if the UK were to leave the EU:-
- Trade: The best case scenario predictions indicate an economic benefit to Britain of 1.1% growth of GDP, however recent reports suggest a net loss to UK GDP, at least in the short term.
- Business: The CBI says businesses may have to comply with EU principles without being able to influence them, however some business leaders predict little change in EU trade, especially if the UK negotiates a free trade agreement.
- Immigration: Outside the EU, the UK could implement an Australia-style points based system, however it is unlikely the EU migrants already in the UK would be rounded up and deported.
- Freedom of Movement: Expats in Europe and even holidaymakers could face reams of visa paperwork, however the UK might have to accept the freedom of movement of EU citizens as a condition of free trade.
- Red Tape: British businesses could be better off without having to comply with EU regulations, however in order to cut red tape, Parliament would have to repeal all the EU rules that are now entrenched in UK law.