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Votes of EU citizens in Shropshire threatened by Brexit

By Rob Smith | Politics | Published:

More than 8,000 EU citizens living in Shropshire could lose their automatic right to vote in some elections if the UK leaves the EU.

EU citizens based in England are entitled to vote in European Parliament and local government elections, but that could change after Brexit because the UK government has only agreed deals with three EU states.

The government has so far only reached agreements on reciprocal voting rights after Brexit with Spain, Luxembourg and Portugal.

It means that 8,437 voters in Shropshire could lose their right to vote in European Parliament and local government elections.

The3million, an organisation which campaigns for EU citizens’ rights in the UK, says some people could “lose the right to any form of democratic representation”.

In Telford & Wrekin it would affect 4,750 voters, 3.7 per cent of the borough's electorate. Meanwhile in the Shropshire area 3,687 voters would be affected – 1.5 per cent of the electorate.

Across the West Midlands, 144,000 EU citizens – 3.5 per cent of the electorate – could see their right to vote affected by Brexit.

The figures exclude those with dual nationality in the UK, Irish citizens, who can vote in all UK elections, and people from Malta and Cyprus, who will maintain their right to vote as they are Commonwealth countries.

'Unacceptable'

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Nationally, 4.7 per cent of England’s electorate, 1.9 million people, are from EU countries without an automatic right to vote.

Maike Bohn, spokeswoman for the3million, said maintaining voting rights is one of the campaign group’s key objectives.

She said: “Some people, because of the way electoral law works in their home countries, will have no right to vote there either. Many will lose the right to vote in European elections.

“There are some people who will lose the right to any form of democratic representation – and that is unacceptable in the 21st century.

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“The [Brexit] referendum has already shown what happens when you don’t have a voice.”

Shropshire voted 56.9 per cent in favour of Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum – which EU citizens were not allowed to vote in.

A new report from the Electoral Commission shows that some EU citizens could already have had their votes hampered, after some British expats and citizens of other EU member states living in the UK faced “difficulties” when trying to vote in the European parliamentary elections on May 23.

The commission said the problems were caused by the Government's delay in implementing electoral changes it had first recommended in 2014.

In that election, the largest share of Shropshire’s vote, 39.1 per cent, went to the Brexit Party. The West Midlands electoral region returned three Brexit Party MEPs, one Liberal Democrat, one Labour, one Green and one Conservative to the European Parliament.

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We are pursuing bilateral arrangements with all member states to protect the right to vote and stand in local elections.

“We have now reached bilateral agreements with Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg and have made positive progress with a number of other member states."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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