'Help us save our voting rights after Brexit' EU citizens urge Tower Hamlets Council
PUBLISHED: 21:24 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 22:57 22 November 2018
A petition to press the government for the 41,000 EU citizens living in London's East End to continue their voting rights in local elections after Brexit has been presented to Tower Hamlets Council.
Elsa Morganson made an impassioned plea at last night’s council meeting urging the town hall to take up the challenge and campaign so they don’t lose their democratic rights after March 29.
“We didn’t have a vote in the 2016 Referendum despite being the group most affected,” she told councillors.
“Yet we’ll continue paying council tax after Brexit, so we should continue having a say in who runs our local services—we are part of the community.”
The council is sympathetic to EU citizens, with the mayor having called for a second referendum when he launched its Brexit Commission in the summer to tackle the challenges Britain faces by quitting the single market and customs union.
The head of the commission, Cllr Amina Ali, felt the 128 days left before Brexit was “worrying” because Theresa May’s government “hasn’t got its act together with a deal that’s unlikely to be passed in Parliament”.
She pointed out: “Agreement was reached in Brussels last month on EU citizens’ rights to stay after March 29—but there was no mention of voting or standing in local elections.”
Voting rights were enshrined in EU law, according to the Local Government Association. But a stumbling block was EU rules in the withdrawal treaty provisions not applying in the UK after Brexit, councillors were warned.
Yet there is hope as voting rights were already “embedded in British Law” by an amendment to the 1983 Representation of the Peoples Act that enfranchises all Commonwealth, Irish Republic and relevant EU citizens, Cllr Peter Golds pointed out.
“It would require primary legislation to remove that right,” he said. “Every political party has pledged to retain that legislation.”
Councillors acknowledged that a voting ban would have “a devastating effect” on local democracy, resulting in “taxation without representation”.