Labour ‘plan to allow EU citizens and 16-year-olds to vote’

Sir Keir Starmer is considering plans to allow millions of EU citizens to vote in general elections under a Labour government.

Labour is mulling whether to expand the vote to 16 and 17-year olds and around 3.4 million EU nationals who have “settled status” in the UK after Brexit.

The Tories quickly lashed out at the prospect of change – accusing Sir Keir of trying to “rig” elections by handing votes to those more likely to vote Labour.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said expanding the franchise was “something we will look at” after the Sunday Telegraph reported Labour want to give EU citizens with settled status the vote.

The newspaper said Labour is also pondering whether to include 1.4 million 16 and 17-year-olds, boosting the UK electorate by more than 8 per cent in all.

Mr Reynolds insisted that it was not yet policy as Labour continues to draw up its manifesto. But he did not deny reports – saying “there are arguments for expanding the franchise” and that Labour wanted to “celebrate” migrants making a contribution in the UK.

Mr Reynolds told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “It’s not our manifesto, it’s not a statement of party policy, but it’s how we go about doing that.”

The frontbencher said: “But of course we’re always looking at ways to strengthen our democracy, to involve as many people [as] possible in that, and there’ll be an element of that … in the Labour manifesto, that’s for sure.”

Asked if would be aimed at giving Labour more votes, Mr Reynolds said it shouldn’t be “looked at through a party political lens” – insisting “it wouldn’t be any consideration of any partisan advantage.”

Going further on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Reynolds said: “We believe people who make a contribution to this country, if they live here there is an argument for having them involved in that [voting] process … If people are making a contribution to the UK, let’s celebrate that.”

Keir Starmer at anti-Brexit rally in 2019


EU citizens with settled status can already vote in local council and Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections – with campaigners pushing for the “levelling up” of voting rights.

Sir Keir backed “full voting rights for EU nationals” during the Labour leadership campaign in 2020. Expanding the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds was in Labour’s last manifesto.

The voting rights policy could affect around 3.4 million EU nationals who live permanently in the UK and pay tax here, while another 2.6 million given “pre-settled” status could also be eligible to vote in general elections in future, according to the Telegraph.

However, it is understood that EU nationals would only be allowed to vote if they had paid tax in the UK for several years, with Labour officials still working through the details of the plan.

A Labour spokesman said: “Keir fundamentally believes that if you work hard and contribute to this country, not only should you be able to get on, but it is fair and right that you should also have a say in decisions being made for your community.”

Campaigners want EU citizens the right to vote in general elections


Tory chairman Greg Hands said Labour was “laying the groundwork to drag the UK back into the EU by stealth”, adding: “Sir Keir spent years trying to block Brexit and overturn the largest democratic vote in this country’s history, this is an attempt to rig the electorate to re-join the EU.”

Tory energy secretary Grant Shapps also accused Starmer of wanting to “reopen” Brexit.

“This is a settlement we had made with EU countries to have reciprocal arrangements so that British citizens abroad are able to vote in for example the local elections say in Spain and the same here,” the cabinet minister told Sky News.

Mr Shapps added: “What he plans to do is actually reopen the Brexit settlement. So, what else will he reopen?  The Windsor Framework, the cooperation agreement with Europe?”

Campaigners welcomed Labour proposals to extend vote


The 3million group, which campaigns for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, said it would “welcomes” Labour extending voting rights.

“Anyone who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK – including EU citizens who have made this country their home – should have the right to vote for their representative in parliament,” a spokeswoman told The Independent.

The row comes as Sir Keir said he does not care if people think he is conservative – promising that the next government will be New Labour “on steroids”.

In a speech on Saturday he told the think tank Progressive Britain that his party must go further than Tony Blair did when he re-wrote the so-called “Clause Four” and rejected public ownership.

Meanwhile, the former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has said he doubts his party would agree to a full coalition government with Labour in the event of a hung parliament at the next general election.

Sir Vince told Observer the “bad experience” of a coalition with the Tories between 2010 and 2015 had soured the idea. “I have always taken the view that even a coalition with Labour is highly improbable,” the ex-leader said.

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