Foreign citizens votes could critically affect outcome of 2015 election and EU referendum

August 28, 2013

A million foreign citizens can vote in all British elections

Commonwealth Citizens who have not yet qualified for British Citizenship, or have not even applied, should no longer be entitled to vote in British general elections, nor in the forthcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU. That is the conclusion of a report issued today by Migration Watch UK.

The report reveals, for the first time, that there are over a million people of voting age living in England and Wales who hold only Commonwealth passports. These Commonwealth citizens currently have the right to vote in all British elections but, except for a few Caribbean states, British citizens do not have reciprocal rights in Commonwealth countries. An address in the constituency is required to get on the electoral roll but no period of residence is laid down and there are no checks on immigration status.

The issue is highly significant because, in the last two general elections, the winning party had a margin over the second party of only two million in 2010 and in 2005 just 750,000. Not all Commonwealth citizens will vote, of course but if their turn out is close to the national average of around 60% they could amount to about half a million votes. An analysis by constituency will not be possible until the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes the relevant statistics.

‘If the next election is close, and especially if there is a coalition negotiation, the number of seats gained by each party will be critical so the outcome could be significantly influenced by a group of people who have not yet qualified to become British citizens or have not even bothered to do so,’ said Migration Watch chairman, Sir Andrew Green.

‘One example is that a student visitor from a Commonwealth country planning to study for six months, would be allowed to enrol on the Electoral Register and vote in a Parliamentary Election if one was held during the duration of his or her stay. This is clearly absurd,’ he said. ‘The issue is one of basic fairness. If people want to participate in deciding the future of our country they should at least become citizens’.

The previous government commissioned a review by Lord Goldsmith, their Attorney General, in 2007 and then ignored his recommendation that this anomaly be brought to an end. He had concluded that “Ultimately, it is right in principle not to give the right to vote to citizens of other countries living in the UK until they become British citizens”. However, he made no attempt to estimate the number of votes involved.

Said Sir Andrew: ‘This is the first time an estimate of the numbers has been made. The public will be astonished to learn that nearly a million foreign citizens from countries that do not allow British residents to vote in their countries are, nevertheless, allowed to vote in all British elections. This is a hangover from the days of Empire and should not have been allowed to continue, especially given the rapid increase in immigration from Commonwealth countries. In future, it should be reciprocal. Except for nationals of a handful of Commonwealth countries that grant similar rights, it should be brought to an end immediately’.

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