There is a great debate about who should have the right to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum. Only British citizens? British plus Irish (who vote in General Elections)? All “EU citizens”? Sixteen and seventeen year-olds?
Broadly speaking, the pro-EU camp wants the largest possible electorate, believing (probably rightly) that “EU citizens” are more likely to vote IN, and (less probably) that 16s & 17s will do the same.
A letter in the Daily Mail on June 3rd from an Alex Orr in Edinburgh suggests that denying a vote to EU citizens in the UK’s EU referendum would be a “Democratic Disgrace”. He argues that EU citizens who have worked in the UK for some years and contributed to our economy have a right to a vote – and more right than a British expatriate who may not have contributed for many years.
This point of view is both preposterous and self-serving. This is a vote about the governance of our country – indeed in a sense about the continued existence of our country. It is a vote about our identity and our democracy. It is our decision about our future. The idea that other European nationalities – foreigners – should have a say on our country’s future is the real “democratic outrage”.
I myself have worked abroad. I was more than three years each in Thailand, Korea, and Malaysia. I believe I contributed to their economies – I certainly paid my taxes – during those years. But I didn’t demand the right to vote, and I should have received a pretty dusty answer if I had. I was a resident and tax-payer in those countries, but I was not a citizen. Clearly I had no right to vote in their elections.
The current plan is to use the general election list, which allows an estimated 800,000 Irish citizens to vote. I have real concerns about this. It may well be in the interests of Irish citizens that the UK should remain in the EU. But it is certainly not in Britain’s interest.