LONDON — The U.K. opposition Labour Party is “looking at” giving EU citizens the vote in general elections, leader Keir Starmer said Monday.
Following a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that suggested Labour would expand the voting franchise to around 3.4 million EU nationals — as well as to 16 and 17 year olds — Starmer confirmed his party is considering the idea.
“There’s no settled policy here — we’re looking at, and this is what the papers are reflecting on, this idea of whether or not EU nationals should be able to vote in our national elections,” Starmer told an LBC phone-in program.
“If someone has been here say 10, 20, 30 years, contributing to this economy, part of our community, they ought to be able to vote,” he added. “That feels wrong [that they can’t vote], and something ought to be done about it.”
EU citizens who permanently reside in the U.K. and have achieved “settled status” can already vote in some elections, including for the devolved Scottish and Welsh parliaments and in elections to local councils.
The Labour leader confirmed his party will also look at offering the vote in general elections to 16 and 17 year olds, who can currently only vote in certain elections.
Starmer denied that offering the vote to EU nationals amounted to an attempt to “reverse Brexit,” which his Labour Party has largely accepted as a fact of life since it suffered a crushing defeat while running on a platform of holding a second referendum on leaving the EU in 2019. A Conservative spokesperson had told the Telegraph any move on voting rights amounted to Starmer “laying the groundwork” for a fresh referendum.
“There is no plan to reverse Brexit,” Starmer said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said there’s no case for going back in — we’re going to make Brexit work.”