UK poll: Thousands of Indians vote in key Brexit poll
The Indian citizens (not British citizens of Indian origin) include students, professionals, others and their family members who are resident in the UK for more than six months, and also those who have permanent residency but have chosen to retain Indian citizenship.Updated: Dec 12, 2019 16:05 IST
Nearly 50 million people eligible to vote in Thursday’s Brexit election includes tens of thousands of Indian citizens legally in the United Kingdom under laws some consider to be an ‘anachronism from the days of the British empire’, but continue to be in force.
The Indian citizens (not British citizens of Indian origin) include students, professionals, others and their family members who are resident in the UK for more than six months, and also those who have permanent residency but have chosen to retain Indian citizenship.
According to the Electoral Commission, people can register to vote if they are: aged 18 or over on polling day; are British citizens resident in the UK; or are Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK.
To contest UK elections, candidates must be: at least 18 years old; and British citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland or qualifying citizens of the Commonwealth. They are not required to be registered to vote, or to live in the parliamentary constituency in which they wish to stand.
A leading migration campaign group has demanded that voting rights for Indian and Commonwealth citizens be revoked since they do not give the same rights to British citizens in those countries.
According to Migration Watch UK, there could be as many as one million migrants from the Commonwealth who have the right to vote in UK parliamentary elections, which could influence the outcome in closely contested constituencies.
“Voting rights for the whole Commonwealth are an anachronism from the days of the British empire and should be brought to an end except for citizens from those few Commonwealth countries which grant British citizens reciprocal voting rights”, it says.
“British citizens who move to Canada and Australia would not be allowed to exercise a right to vote until they became citizens of those countries. Nor can they vote in India, Pakistan and Nigeria, the three most populous members of the Commonwealth”, it adds.
In 2007, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown commissioned barrister Peter Goldsmith to review British citizenship laws that included voting rights. It concluded that the laws were the result of changes introduced to deal with members of the former empire gaining independence after the Second World War.
Goldsmith noted that clarity was lacking in laws and proposed phasing out the right of Indian and Commonwealth citizens to vote in UK elections: “I do proposed that the government gives consideration to making a clear connection between citizenship and the right to vote by limiting in principle the right to vote in Westminster elections to UK citizens”.
“This would recognise that the right to vote is one of the hallmarks of the political status of citizens; it is not a means of expressing closeness between countries”.
The government did not formally respond to the Goldsmith report, but stated that it had “carefully studied” it.