It’s not surprising that there is a legal challenge to the changes to the standard franchise for Parliamentary elections for the EU Referendum, when the British Government has responded below (with no justification for such changes) to the petition – “Extend Eu referendum voting rights to all UK citizens living abroad.”.
As an issue of national significance, the Parliamentary franchise is the appropriate starting point. This includes UK citizens abroad if they were registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years.
The franchise for the EU referendum is based on the franchise for Parliamentary elections, with the addition of Members of the House of Lords; and Commonwealth and Irish citizens who can vote at European Parliamentary elections in Gibraltar.
Both the 1975 EEC referendum and 2011 Alternative Vote referendum were based on the UK Parliamentary franchise. The franchise is also similar to that set for the referendum lock on transfers of power from the UK to the EU required under the European Union Act 2011.
The UK Parliamentary franchise includes British citizens overseas who were registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years. This means that many British expats will be able to participate in the referendum. The Government is committed to scrapping the time limit on voting from overseas at parliamentary elections, and intends to bring forward an Overseas Electors Bill to achieve this. This will need to be debated and approved by Parliament before it can become law, and it is highly unlikely this will be in time for the EU referendum.
The European Union Referendum Bill received Royal Assent on 17 December 2015 and is now an Act of Parliament. The question of the franchise was debated in Parliament during the passage of the Bill and this approach was agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Click this link to view the response online:
The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.
The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament