Peers spoke out strongly in favour of a referendum vote for all Britons living in EU countries when the UK’s EU Referendum Bill had its first House of Lords debate. Many members gave their backing to the idea in yesterday’s debate – which the Liberal Democrats have confirmed to Connexion will also be the subject of an amendment which will be lodged before the bill is discussed in detail in a Lords ‘committee stage’. (The date for this has yet to be set, but it will be the next part of the bill’s journey through parliament). Chairman of Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats Giles Goodall said it has been agreed that the cross-bench peers [those of no specific party] will table an amendment on this, with Liberal Democrat support. He said the same is planned for an amendment calling for an independent report into the impact of leaving the EU. The Liberal-Democrats will also table amendments on votes for 16-17-year-olds and for EU citizens living in the UK, Mr Goodall said. Readers wishing email peers with support or comments can find contact details here: House of Lords.
During the Lords debate several peers also stressed the importance of detailed reports being made before the referendum as to what the UK’s relationship with the EU would look like, and what the effects would be.
The issue of expats’ voting rights is now urgent as the promised Votes for Life bill, which would extend voting rights (in parliamentary elections and also, therefore, the referendum) to all British citizens for life, has not so far been prioritised by the UK government. It may not become law in time for the referendum, to be held in 2016-17.
The Referendum Bill at present states that people who can vote in parliamentary elections can vote in the referendum, as well as British, Commonwealth and Irish citizens living in Gibraltar; plus peers – including ones who live in other parts of the EU and however long they have been outside the UK. However the wording excludes ordinary British citizens who have been away for more than 15 years, who currently lose their parliamentary election vote.
Full Article: Peers speak out for expat referendum vote – The Connexion.