Labour Would Give EU Nationals the Vote in Second Brexit Referendum

A Labour shadow minister has confirmed that a Labour government would radically tear up the rules of British democracy by giving EU citizens living in the United Kingdom a vote in a second Brexit referendum, saying the decision was not just down to people “born here”.

Speaking to Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey confirmed that her party was committed to extending the voting franchise to non-British citizens. She said: “I think it’s right that people who work here from the European Union, who have lived here for a lot of their lives, their children go to our schools [should have the vote].”

Ms Husain interjected to point out that “not everyone has lived here for a lot of their lives and this is something likely to significantly affect the election result — and indeed makes it different from the last referendum”.

The Labour shadow minister responded by saying that Labour has pledged that every EU citizen living in the United Kingdom on Brexit day will automatically gain all the rights of a “citizen”. In her party’s rationale, that means democratic decision-making in this country cannot be the sole right of British nationals — or as she phrased it, “people who were born here”.

Ms Long-Bailey said: “Let’s remember that under a Labour government, we’ve stated that any EU national who is living here at the time we exit the European Union will be guaranteed the right to stay here as a citizen. I think it’s fair to ensure that those people have the opportunity to vote over their future.

“Essentially. this isn’t just about the future of people who were born here; it’s the future of the people who contribute to our economy and have done for a very, very long time.”

Earlier on the programme, Brexiteer and Conservative minister Michael Gove criticised Labour’s plan to extend the voting franchise without qualification as “fundamentally an assault on the basic democratic principle”.

Mr Gove continued: “We should, first of all, respect the original referendum result… But what makes it worse is the idea that a referendum the next time around would be run according to different rules that every objective observer would say more likely to favour Remain.”

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has pledged that if he wins the election on December 12th, he will go back to Brussels and renegotiate a soft Brexit deal, in which the United Kingdom would remain closely aligned to the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. That option would be put against remaining in the EU in a second referendum — a choice, according to critics, between “Remain and Remain”.

Indeed, handing the voting franchise to two million EU nationals overwhelmingly likely to vote Remain for personal reasons would swing the referendum in favour of undoing the first referendum, in which the British people voted decisively in favour of Leave.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of “sly” tactics over his plans to “fiddle” the second referendum.

Mr Johnson wrote: “Your policy is to cancel the result of the last referendum and to hold another one. Even worse, your manifesto sets out plans to fiddle your second referendum on Brexit. You want to give two million EU nationals the vote in your referendum.

“This is a sly attempt to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum, and is profoundly undemocratic.”

He warned of the consequences of giving non-citizens the vote, saying: “…your policy of giving millions of foreign citizens the vote in order to overturn the referendum would create incredible bitterness that might take decades to repair.

“Imagine how people will feel if the biggest democratic exercise in our history is overturned because you gave two million EU citizens the power to reverse Brexit?

“It would alienate millions who already feel disenfranchised and ignored by our political system.”

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