Unfortunately the amendment moved by Baroness Miller (LD) to include in the franchise for the EU Referendum Bill all EU-resident British expatriates, was defeated at the Report Stage debate in the House of Lords on the 18th November, Peers voting 214 – 116 against.
On behalf of the government, Lord Faulks (Conservative minister) said that:
“Removing the 15-year rule will be a complex and important constitutional change. It is not something that we suggest should in any way be rushed by way of a single amendment. It needs a whole Bill to be implemented properly—a Bill that plainly will be opposed by the party opposite. There are decisions to be taken.”
Having previously succeeded in removing an amendment by the Opposition in the House of Commons to include voting rights for 16 & 17 year olds in the EU Referendum Bill, only to find it subsequently reinstated in the House of Lords, perhaps the government was not prepared to chance another defeat in the Lords.
Tactically, therefore, the government did not risk supporting this Liberal Democrat (LD) moved amendment to allow all EU-resident British expats to vote in the EU Referendum, in advance of the Commons’ debates on the Votes for Life Bill, given the strong Labour party opposition to removing the 15-year-limit.