Many citizens of EU member states living here are unsure whether they will be eligible to vote in local elections, and I have been asked about this a few times when canvassing.
The answer is: it depends.
Previously (and including the 2021 local elections) it was clear that all EU citizens of voting age were eligible to take part (and indeed stand) in UK local elections. The Elections Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament, is likely to change that.
Assuming the Elections Bill passes into law in its current form, then EU citizens’ right to vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland will depend on two factors: length of residency and whether their country has entered into a bilateral reciprocal voting arrangement with the UK.
- EU citizens (of any member state) who were already living in the UK before the end of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Period (up until 1 January 2021), and who have retained lawful immigration status, would keep their right to vote in local elections.
- EU citizens who arrived in the UK since 1 January 2021 only get these rights if the UK Government has negotiated agreements with their member state to allow its citizens living in the UK to vote, in return for the same right for UK citizens living in that country.
So far these agreements have been made with:
Separately, citizens of Cyprus, Gibraltar and Ireland retain their rights to vote, for historical reasons. The situation is different for people living in Scotland and Wales, where anyone holding residency is entitled to vote in local and devolved elections.
(What if the Elections Bill does not pass before the election? Presumably, the old rules will continue to apply. But I can’t find a written reference to that. Let me know if you have one.)
I find it unsatisfactory, and unfair on those excluded by these rules. But, at least some EU citizens still have the opportunity to have their say in how local affairs are managed, and I hope they will take full advantage of it.
People who are not already registered to vote have until 14 April to register.
More information about the bill and its impacts here. As always a great source of information is the3million who campaign to protect the rights of people who have made the UK their home. They are campaigning for residency-based voting rights, as already applies in Scotland and Wales.