We welcome the announcement by the UK government that EU citizens from Poland will continue to enjoy the same democratic rights in Britain as they did prior to Britain leaving the European Union. (Poland, UK sign bi-lateral voting rights treaty, Polandin.com
This decision is long overdue and follows similar announcements in relation to the rights of Spanish, Portuguese and Luxembourg citizens in the UK.
The right of EU citizens to vote and stand as candidates in local elections is enshrined in UK law and includes elections to local councils, the London Authority and the Welsh Assembly as well as votes for mayors and local crime commissioners.
In Scotland, the right to vote in local elections and the right to vote for the Scottish parliament is a devolved power. The Scottish government recently announced that all citizens from abroad (with the exception of asylum-seekers) will have the right to vote and stand as candidates.
Scotland has set an example which the rest of the UK should follow. Democracy works best when every voice can be heard. It should also be emphasized that it would be quite wrong to deprive EU citizens resident in the UK of any of the rights they enjoyed pre-Brexit including the right to vote.
We call on the UK government to confirm that it will guarantee the rights of all EU citizens in the UK to stand and vote in local and regional elections, not just those who are nationals of an EU member state where a bi-lateral agreement is in place.
The European Commission should also take steps to make sure that the democratic rights of Britons resident in the EU are protected.
Many Britons living in the EU automatically lost the right to vote and stand in European elections simply because they fall foul of legislation which excludes the rights of non-EU citizens to vote (Britons ceased to be EU citizens on 31 January).
The fact that citizens’ rights are being traded off in the context of bilateral negotiations is worrying.
Member states which have removed the right to vote from British citizens who were resident prior to Brexit should amend their legislation to reinstate those rights, at the very least for the duration of the transition period if not permanently.
The UK and the EU should unilaterally guarantee the rights of #the5million so that they do not become the object of trade talks about the future relationship between the UK and the EU and/or individual member states.
It should also be pointed out that the EU is committed to a multi-lateral approach in its external relations.
Bilateral agreements, such as the one between the UK and Poland, undermine the multi-lateral approach and may in fact be part of a systematic attempt by the UK government so to do.
What will it take for the European Commission to wake up to the UK government’s game-playing over Brexit?
Who in the European Council will ring fence the rights of all UK citizens in the EU on grounds of fairness and as an institution aiming to be rights-respecting promoting ?
When will the European Union live up to its self-representation as a safe space for human rights?
How long will it be until EU citizens can hold up their heads high and say “we live in a Europe of citizens, where our rights are protected.”
In the meantime, our campaign message at New Europeans is very clear:
“Don’t make citizens pay the price of Brexit!”