EU nationals and the Lib Dem manifesto

I wonder how often any of us actually read political parties’ manifestos. I agree; we have much better things to do. I also know that so many of us are simply fed up with reading stuff that promises lots and delivers very little.

However, I do believe that it is our democratic responsibility to ensure that we educate ourselves and vote in any elections in line with our moral, social and political conscience. This can be achieved by being well informed and not only by voting with our gut feeling.

Although this issue will not entertain a lot of people and it will not win many seats across the Parliament, I feel that for many of us it is hugely important. I am delighted that the Lib Dem Manifesto makes so many concrete pledges in relation to the lives of many European nationals living in Britain.

Under Immigration and Asylum, it says that Liberal Democrats want to protect the rights of EU citizens and their families in the UK by:

  • Automatically granting full Settled Status to all those with Pre-Settled Status
  • Providing them with physical proof of their right to stay
  • Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,214 to the cost of administration

Interestingly, under the same heading, the Conservative Party Manifesto says only that “We are committed to the EU Settled Status Scheme and the rights it has guaranteed for EU citizens”.

In addition, under the Political Reform, Liberal Democrats will reform politics to put more power in people’s hands by:

  • Extending the right to full participation in civic life, including the ability to stand for office or vote in UK referendums, local elections and general elections, to all EU citizens with settled status, and to anyone else who has lived in the UK for at least five years and has the right to stay permanently
  • Introducing a legal requirement for local authorities to inform citizens of the steps they must take to be successfully registered with far greater efforts in particular to register underrepresented groups, and ensuring that the UK has an automatic system of inclusion in elections.
  • Enabling all UK citizens living abroad to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies and to participate in UK referendums

The above set of policies is important, fair and comprehensive. I am delighted that Liberal Democrats are thinking about residents from all sections of our communities, including millions of European citizens, who are living or working in the UK. In my view, if this manifesto was to be implemented, it would hugely empower people, help them to better connect with the democratic and political process. Furthermore, by voting or standing in all elections in Britain, many of us would have a real opportunity to shape the future of our communities across all levels of the political administration. This is the way to go!

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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15 Comments

  • Dr. Ruvi Ziegler 17th Jun '24 - 2:37pm

    Absolutely: an inclusive approach to democratic participation which rejects the false dichotomy between (long-term) residence and citizenship – both can give a person a sufficient stake in society to merit electoral participation at the national level, and in a globalised world it is entirely normal for people to be stakeholders in more than one polity.

    I am proud to chair ‘New Europeans UK’, which has been campaigning for the introduction of overseas constituencies to represent Britons living abroad, especially given the removal of the 15 year bar by the 2022 Elections Act. I am delighted this is official party policy.

  • I sympathize with the ideal of giving the right to vote etc. to people who have lived in the UK for some period of time, but the problem is, if those people also simultaneously retain citizenship and the right to vote in their own countries, then it becomes unfair because they get twice as many votes as everyone else: A vote in the UK and a vote in their home country. Any system like that needs to require that a person choose ONE country that they intend – at least for the time being – to make their permanent home and therefore wish to have voting etc. rights in.

  • Martin Gray 17th Jun '24 - 4:17pm

    Are those rights reciprocated across the EU ..
    In national elections I think not …
    Only UK citizens should have the right to vote in national elections.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Jun '24 - 7:29pm

    EU citizens, like me, can vote in local and EU elections in an EU country where they reside, but many are also registered in the UK, where they can vote in all elections. What’s the problem?

  • Simple Mick …You as a British citizen are not allowed to vote in Greece’s national elections.
    Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek national residing in the UK be given the same right ..

  • Peter Martin 18th Jun '24 - 11:55am

    @ Martin Gray,

    “Unless that right is reciprocated why would should any Greek national residing in the UK be given the same right ?”

    It’s probably the same with all other EU countries too.

    But, to answer your question, it’ll be because EU nationals are thought to be more likely to vote for Lib Dems than other political parties.

  • Roger Billins 18th Jun '24 - 5:58pm

    The principle should surely be no taxation without representation. If I pay tax in a country, I should have the right to have a say as to how my taxes are spent.

  • @Roger – The principle is good sound bite, but the reality is your second statement: No representation without taxation.

    So all those overseas “residents”, want to vote, then pay UK taxes on your worldwide earnings.

  • Nigel Quinton 19th Jun '24 - 5:17pm

    In answer to some of the views expressed above, the right to vote should surely extend to all resident in a country subject to a sensible qualification period. Five years is what we propose, or settled status in the case of EU citizens. Whether they have a vote elsewhere is irrelevant to their right to participate in the politics of the country they have made their home. Whether UK nationals resident in Greece (or any other nation) should be able to vote in their elections is a separate issue.

  • Martin Gray 19th Jun '24 - 7:20pm

    @Nigel….Why is it separate ? …
    If a foreign national with 5 years residency & have made their home here – then apply for UK citizenship – if they feel that strongly & want to partake in UK general elections..The UK shouldn’t be treated like some Hokey Cokey for non British citizens..

  • @Nigel I don’t see it as at all irrelevant if a person maintains a right to vote in another country. One person one vote is a fundamental principle of our democratic values. Indeed, one of the reasons why we want to reform the UK electoral system is to ensure that each person’s vote, as far as possible, counts equal. Why would you want to destroy that principle by deliberately giving some people two votes (one in the UK, one in the country of which they are a citizen)?

  • Most, if not all, people who have come to the UK to live, pay taxes, here in the UK. It’s only filthy rich people who get away with claiming non-dom status. Labour’s plans to close the non-dom loopholes are to be welcomed and our party should do likewise. US citizens are liable to US taxation wherever they live, but can offset at least some of the taxes they pay elsewhere. Why do we have this ludicrous non-dom status at all?
    So following Roger Billins, if people living in the UK and paying tax in the UK are not able to vote then that’s wrong. In an ever shifting world we should be happy that people choose our country to live in and we should give them the vote after a qualifying period.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Jun '24 - 10:51am

    As I understand it every adult US citizen or resident is required to complete a tax return every year. We don’t do that in UK – e.g. if someone just receives income from pensions the pension providers can inform HMRC themselves and HMRC works out the tax code accordingly. I haven’t done a tax return for many years – I have to let HMRC know if any other investment income exceeds the annual tax-free allowance.

    The US system seems horrendously complex and expensive to operate – beneficial to private firms completing tax returns for people or providing easy online means for people to give the informaiton needed.

  • Peter Martin 20th Jun '24 - 10:57am

    @ Mick,

    I spent some time living and working in Australia. Until I actually got around to applying for, and getting, Aussie citizenship I wasn’t allowed to vote. I still had to pay my taxes though!

    I never came across anyone who was campaigning for, or even expressing a view, that the many Poms who were living in Australia but who weren’t citizens should be given the franchise. The general feeling was that if we didn’t like it we knew what we could do. ie Clear off back to the UK or get an Aussie passport!

    This is pretty much how it is the world over. We didn’t make a fuss about it then and I don’t hear EU, or other, nationals making a fuss about it now.

    Those who are making the most noise about this don’t have a direct personal interest. There must be some ulterior motive involved.

  • @Peter
    yet any Australian or Commonwealth has the right to vote in full in the UK the minute they arrive, even if on a time-limited visa (I have several friends that did within 2 months of arriving, whilst 26 years here I still can’t..).

    so if you want to limit the franchise to countries with reciprocal arrangements, then most Commonwealth would lose it.

    most countries only allow their citizens to vote, but the UK has a weird and inconsistent approach, where some foreign nationals can vote and others can’t, based on spurious ‘historical’ links (several Commonwealth countries have none whatsoever with the uk, yet their citizens can vote here)

    the fact you have permanent residence and therefore pay taxes should be the criteria… or make it easier (and much cheaper, currently 2nd most expensive in the world, after Switzerland) to obtain UK citizenship. the uk system is designed to discourage integration via citizenship, rather than encourage it like most other places.

    voting rights in another country are that country’s problem (dual nationals also can vote in more than 1 country) and should not be relevant.

    I also think MPs representing UK expats are a great idea, that is how my origin country (France) now handles it, which is progress and helps expats keep links, as well as making sure to remind government that their actions have consequences for all their citizens around the world (UK in europe ones know too well!)

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