Can EU citizens vote in UK general elections?

Some European Union citizens living in the UK could get voting rights under a Labour government, the party has said.

Sir Keir Starmer confirmed on Monday that the party is ‘looking at’ giving EU citizens the vote in general elections.

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow business secretary, told the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme the move could “strengthen our democracy”.

“It’s not our final policy position,” he said. “We want to strengthen our democracy and these people make a contribution… they live here and we want to involve them in that process. But we will set that out in full in our manifesto.”

The move might appeal to potential voters, especially those of European background, but the Conservatives have criticised its potential to undervalue Brexit.

Conservative chairman Greg Hands said in response: "The right to vote in parliamentary elections and choose the next UK government is rightly restricted to British citizens and those with the closest historical links to our country.”

Who can currently vote in the UK?

There are different rules on who can vote for different elections (Electoral Commission)
There are different rules on who can vote for different elections (Electoral Commission)

According to the House of Commons Library, rules on voting differ between various groups and ages depending on what the vote is for.

To vote in Parliamentary elections, a person must be:

  • Aged 18 or older

  • A British citizen, a British overseas voter, an Irish resident, or a citizen of a qualifying Commonwealth country

Can EU citizens living in the UK vote?

EU (European Union) residents cannot, currently, vote in these elections — which is what the Labour Party might be looking to change.

However, EU citizens who are residents can vote in every other election in the UK, including for councils, mayors, and police commissioners.

The Electoral Commission website states: “EU nationals citizens legally resident in the UK may currently register to vote in all elections that use the local government franchise.

“The Elections Act 2022 will change the eligibility of some EU citizens to vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland, and PCC elections in England and Wales.”

What other local rules are there around elections?

People convicted of criminal offences

People who have been imprisoned for a criminal offence cannot vote in any elections in England or Wales, according to the 1983 Representation of the People Act.

In addition, if somebody has been convicted of "corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election" within the last five years, they cannot vote.

Prisoners can only vote in Scottish elections if carrying a sentence of 12 months or less.

Age restrictions

The voting age is 18 across the board apart from in Scotland and for Welsh police commissioners, where the age is 16.