The government has ruled out extending the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum to all British citizens living abroad, despite a promise made by the Conservative party chairman that it would. The EU referendum bill, which will be announced after the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, will make clear that the franchise – the people eligible to vote – will be the same as in general elections, which is adults from the age of 18, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK, and British citizens who have lived abroad for less than 15 years. This means that more than 1 million EU citizens living in Britain will not be able to vote, as they are in local elections, in what would be seen as a victory for Eurosceptic campaigners. The bill will also rule out giving the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, an idea backed by Labour and the SNP.
David Cameron will step up his pre-referendum campaign to win back more powers from Brussels on Monday evening when he hosts Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, at his Chequers country residence for dinner.
The Eurosceptic Tory MP John Redwood was pleased with the franchise outlined in the bill. “It would be quite wrong to use this election to start making changes to the electorate,” the MP for Wokingham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. “I don’t think it’s the time to start experimenting with who should vote. What we need to do is get over the main arguments.”