Starmer backs full voting rights for EU nationals living in UK

Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer has revealed his support for the policy of awarding full voting rights – including in general elections – to EU nationals living in the UK.

In a comment piece for The Guardian published on Thursday evening, the Shadow Brexit Secretary wrote: “The government should give all 3 million EU nationals living in the UK full voting rights in future elections.”

Making the case for offering EU citizens increased security, Starmer declared: “We were never just “tolerating” EU citizens living in this country – they are our neighbours, friends and families. To see their status in doubt devastates our sense not just of justice but also of fellowship.”

The fresh policy announcement, which was also included in Labour’s 2019 manifesto, comes ahead of a speech on Brexit set to be delivered by Starmer on Friday morning – shortly before the UK leaves the EU at 11pm.

At Labour conference in September, delegates approved a policy motion advocating the extension of free movement, the closure of all detention centres and the awarding of equal voting rights to all UK residents.

In the UK, full voting rights are currently limited to citizens of the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries. EU citizens living in the UK can vote in local and European elections, but not general elections.

The motion instructed the next Labour government to change the situation, and Labour’s manifesto at the 2019 general election accordingly included a vow to give “full voting rights to all UK residents” – not only EU nationals in the UK.

Nondiscriminatory national voting rights are rare, with New Zealand being a notable exception. After Brexit, it will be a matter of national jurisdiction and subject to bilateral agreements with individual countries.

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals in the UK will be able to vote in the 2020 local elections as they will not be removed from the register before May.

As previously made clear during his leadership campaign, Starmer reiterated in the article that the “Leave-Remain divide must end”, adding: “Defining people by how they voted in June 2016 merely upholds a divide that we must overcome.

“There are no Leavers or Remainers any more. In 2024 there will be no Leave or Remain constituencies,” the Labour leadership hopeful concluded.

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