Votes for EU citizens missing from Labour policy plan

Keir Starmer had previously backed the policy, which was in the 2019 Labour manifesto

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 15 September 2023 17:53 BST
<p>Sir Keir Starmer (Peter Byrne/PA)</p>

Sir Keir Starmer (Peter Byrne/PA)

Plans to extend voting rights to EU citizens have not made it into Labour's official list of policies ahead of the next election, despite Keir Starmer previously endorsing the policy.

The Labour leader said in May this year that the party was "looking at" extending the franchise to the nationals of European Union countries.

But the proposal, which was in the previous 2019 Labour manifesto, was not included in the final draft of the party's national policy forum documents published on Friday.

Sir Keir had also personally backed extending the franchise during the 2020 Labour leadership election, writing in an article for the Guardian newspaper: “The government should give all three million EU nationals living in the UK full voting rights in future elections.

“The way they have been treated over the past three years is shameful. We were never just ‘tolerating’ EU citizens living in this country – they are our neighbours, friends and families.”

The policy document however does continue a previous Labour policy of extending voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds, bringing UK elections in line with those for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

"The flaws in the current voting system are contributing to the distrust and alienation we see in politics, but there is no consensus for a new system," the document's section on democratic reform says.

"Any proposed change to our voting system must be carefully thought- through – it cannot be dictated by political leaders or forced upon the country from the top down.

"However, there are some urgent steps that can be taken to restore faith in our democracy. Labour will introduce votes for 16- and 17-year-olds, in line with Scotland and Wales, so that young people feel empowered and can fully engage in our democratic processes.

"Those who contribute to our society should have a say in how it is governed."

The national policy forum document is not the party's final election manifesto, which will be decided through a formal process when a poll is called.

Votes for EU nationals is a demand of citizens’ groups

But the NPF document, finalised over the summer, is the clearest sign yet of the opposition's policy direction under Sir Keir. It will be voted on by delegates at Labour's Annual Conference in October this year.

Anneliese Dodds, chair of the party’s National Policy Forum, said: “Thanks to Keir Starmer’s leadership, Labour is a changed party that back in the service of working people and stands ready to change the country with a mission-driven Labour government.

“This report is a serious, credible and ambitious policy programme to enact the change that people are crying out for.

"Labour is a party transformed under Keir Starmer, with a policy programme built on the rock of economic stability,our plan for growth and reform of public services.

“Only Labour can give Britain its hope, its optimism and its future back.”

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