On June 18th in the House of Commons, at the EU Referendum Bill “Committee Stage” the following amendment was tabled by Labour MPs Mike Gapes & Keith Vaz and, given the government spokesman’s response (see below), this is not necessarily the end of the matter as far as British overseas voters resident in other EU countries are concerned.
Amendment 52 Clause 2, line 16, at end add –
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1983, as amended, or of any other statute, a British citizen resident overseas in a country within the European Union will be eligible:
(a) to register to vote and
(b) to vote in the referendum irrespective of the length of time that the citizen has been resident overseas.”
Member’s explanatory statement
The amendment would entitle British citizens living in any country in the European Union to vote in the referendum irrespective of the time they have been resident overseas
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (John Penrose) spoke for the Government. Concerning Mike Gapes (Ilford South) – he responded as follows:
Amendment 52 deals with votes for life. I think the hon. Member for Ilford South is trying to be helpful by tabling an amendment that is closely in line with my own party’s manifesto, and I thank him for that.
I am not sure how his party’s Front Benchers feel about it, but he has not let that stop him and I salute his courage and determination. I am now hoist on my own petard, though, because having made the argument that this is the wrong Bill through which to deal with 16 and 17-year-olds voting, I must abide by my own logic on this point. However, I can give the hon. Gentleman the same assurance as I gave my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), who was worried that we were kicking the question of 16 and 17-year-olds voting into the long grass.
There will be opportunities in this Session of Parliament to vote on the matter, because we will be introducing our own Bill on votes for life, which will apply to all franchises, to make sure that British citizens who live abroad who are not currently able to vote and exercise their democratic rights, even though they are citizens of this country, are able to do so.
I look forward to having the hon. Gentleman’s support, even if not that of those on his Front Bench, on that very important matter.
With due thanks to Brian Cave for this input