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EU referendum: Foreigners barred from historic vote

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 25/05/2015 By Steven Swinford Deputy Political Editor

Only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are resident in the UK will be allowed to vote in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union © Associated Press Only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are resident in the UK will be allowed to vote in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union More than 1million foreigners living in Britain will be banned from voting in the EU referendum, the Conservatives have announced, in a significant boost to Eurosceptic campaigners.

David Cameron believes that the British people must decide the future of the nation's membership of the European Union in the first referendum for more than 40 years.

The EU referendum bill, which will be announced this week after the Queen's Speech, will make clear that only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are resident in the UK will be allowed to vote.

It comes after Eurosceptic MPs confronted ministers over the issue amid concerns that pro-Europeans could effectively rig the result by giving EU citizens the decisive vote.

Mr Cameron will on Monday step up his campaign to win back more powers from Brussels by hosting Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, at his Chequers country residence for dinner.

Mr Juncker is reportedly planning push the Prime Minister to hold the referendum in 2016 or "as soon as possible" despite concerns that this will not give Britain time to secure reforms.

Mr Cameron has said he is committed to holding a referendum by 2017 at the latest, but has suggested he is prepared to hold one sooner if negotiations with Brussels prove successful.

The Prime Minister will set out his plans to bar foreign jobseekers claiming benefits and deport them from the UK if they do not find work within six months, which he has described as an "absolute requirement".

After delivering the Queen's Speech on Wednesday the Prime Minister will embark on a two-day diplomatic offensive as he travels 3,000 miles and visits Denmark, Holland, France, Poland and Germany.

Should Britain stay in or get out of the EU? Polling since 1977
PollingStay InGet Out
October 19775347
24 May 19784753
29 March 19793565
March 19802971
19-23 March 19813664
March 19834060
7-8 June 19845149
12-16 September 19875545
November 19906832
21 June 19917030
4-5 December 19916733
5-6 June 19926040
10-13 June 19926238
21-25 October 19935446
11-30 April 19945941
23-26 May 19965347
27-29 November 19965248
15 April 19975050
25-28 April 19975248
2-3 October 19975446
13-14 November 19975842
25-30 June 19985446
21-24 May 19995347
10-11 June 19995347
13-14 October 19995545
27-29 October 19994852
22-27 June 20006238
29-30 September 20004852
24-25 November 20005347
15-21 March 20014852
30 April -1 May 20015347
20-22 June 20035446
20-22 September 20075644
22-24 October 20114654 
10-13 November 2012 4852
10-12 May 20145941
 11-14 October 20146139
Ipsos MORI

A Downing Street source said: “No Briton 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 and to give people the choice – in or out.

"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.”

Mr Cameron's push for reform comes amid growing tensions over the referendum within the Conservative Party.

Lord Hill, Britain's EU commissioner, yesterday triggered a furious reaction from Eurosceptics by saying that there is an "extraordinarily strong" case for staying in.

The peer, who will be helping conduct negotiations, said "you cannot have your cake and eat it" and enjoy the benefits of the EU such the single market and free trade if the nation votes to leave.

His comments infuriated Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, who said he is "totally and utterly wrong" and accused him of trying to paint a "wild caricature" of the risks of Britain leaving the EU.

Mr Paterson said: "My deepest respect to Jonathan, who I served in the Cabinet with, but he is totally and utterly wrong. He is a member of the establishment, we all know where they are coming from. We need time to make the case that there is an incredibly optimistic destination.

"This idea that trade is synonymous with the European Union is complete and utter tosh. We would under any sane solution continue very active membership of the market."

The franchise for referendum will be based on that of the general election meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in the UK will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will be eligible to vote, as well as UK nationals resident overseas for less than 15 years. Members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be entitled to vote.

Eurosceptics had feared that the franchise could be based on the European and local elections, in which European Union citizens are entitled to vote.

After delivering the Queen's Speech on Wednesday the Prime Minister will fly to Denmark, where the following morning he will have a working breakfast with Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister.

He will then travel to Holland for discussions with the Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, before holding talks with Francois Hollande, the French President, in the Elysee.

On Friday he will meet Ewa Kopacz, the Polish Prime Minister, in Warsaw, before concluding his trip with a visit to Berlin to hold talks with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

The Prime Minister intends to speak to all 27 leaders of the EU individually ahead of the European Council next month, which is viewed as pivotal to securing reform of the European Union.

It comes after Labour abandoned its opposition to a European referendum in the wake of its crashing defeat in the election. The party will now vote for the referendum bill, which will be published on Thursday.


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