Nearly 1.5 million citizens of European Union (EU) countries resident in the UK will not be allowed to vote in the forthcoming referendum to decide Britain’s membership of the 28-member union that was one of the key issues in the May 7 elections.
A bill on the referendum is to be included in the Queen’s Speech to the new parliament on Wednesday.
Responding to apprehensions that EU citizens living in the UK will influence the result with a pro-EU vote, the government has announced citizens of most EU countries will not be allowed to vote.
A 10 Downing Street source told the media, “No Brit under the age of 58 has had their say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. It is time to put this right... This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”
However, unlike the 2014 Scotland referendum, 16 and 17-year-olds will not be allowed to vote in the EU referendum. Labour and the Scottish National Party are likely to push to include them.
Britain’s membership of the EU became a major issue in recent years due to the perception that the union was taking ever more powers and funds from member-states.
It is also fuelled by the migration in recent years of hundreds of thousands of EU citizens to the UK who have the right of free movement throughout the union.