Today’s local elections may be the last chance for Eastleigh’s resident EU citizens to have a say in how their Council Tax is spent.
Currently EU citizens are entitled to vote in local elections – or even stand as candidates and serve as councillors – but Eastleigh news has been told there are no plans to continue with this arrangement in 2020, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
According to Eastleigh Borough Council, there are 2,300 EU citizens living in the Borough who are registered and entitled to vote in today’s election however the subject of future voting rights is not mentioned in the draft Withdrawal Agreement nor are they listed as a potential benefit of ‘settled status’ for EU citizens who want to remain the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
In an email to Eastleigh News the Electoral Commission admitted they simply did not know if EU citizens would be able to participate in next year’s local elections or if they were to be stripped of the right to vote in the UK that they have enjoyed since 1994.
Eastleigh News has been briefed by a source familiar with the withdrawal negotiations who confirms there are no plans to allow EU citizens to vote in UK municipal elections after Brexit, although, the source said that the government has ‘pushed hard’ in withdrawal negotiations to include the right to stand and vote for UK citizens living in the EU – and EU citizens living in the UK – the EU commission had ruled that the matter was ‘out of scope.’
The source also said the government would instead pursue bilateral arrangements separately with each of the individual member states and that Ministers had already written to each member state offering an agreement on local voting rights.
So far, the Government have only reached an reciprocal agreement with Spain but it is hoped that other agreements can be negotiated with the other 26 member states
Residents pay council tax to local authorities to pay for services and voting in local elections gives council tax-payers a say in how that money is spent but as things currently stand – excepting Spanish citizens – Eastleigh’s EU citizens are likely be disenfranchised if the UK leaves the EU under either the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, or in the case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, either case being likely.
It remains to be seen as to what effect 2,000 voters suddenly disappearing from the electoral roll might have on the fortunes of the political parties.
EU residents might still have another chance to take part in democracy if the EU elections go ahead in the UK on May 23. At the moment EU Citizens resident in the UK are also eligible to vote for British MEPs but EU Nationals must download, complete and post an extra registration form before a May 7 deadline which has led to accusations that EU citizens are facing barriers to participation in the Euro poll.