EU citizens living in UK to be denied vote in EU referendum

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– Legislation for EU referendum will be introduced to parliament Thursday

ANKARA — British citizens living abroad and most EU citizens living in the U.K. will be unable to vote in Britain’s upcoming in-out EU referendum, the government announced Monday.

The referendum will follow the same guidelines as general elections, meaning most EU citizens living in the U.K., who number over one million, will be unable to vote.

To allow these individuals to vote “would have been an unacceptable dilution of the voice of the British people,” former Conservative Defense Minister Liam Fox said.

Citizens from Ireland and British Commonwealth countries, such as Malta and Gibraltar, will be able to vote but British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will be ineligible to take part.

Eurosceptic Conservative MP John Redwood backed the decision.

“I don’t think it’s the time to start experimenting with who should vote,” he told BBC Radio 4 Monday.

The center-left main opposition Labour Party and the left-wing separatist Scottish National Party are pushing for 16-and 17-year-olds to be given the right to take part in the referendum, as happened in last year’s Scottish independence referendum. Only those over the age of 18 can currently vote in elections.

“I don’t agree with having a referendum on EU membership – but if it is to go ahead, then Cameron has a responsibility to help ensure it can be an enriching and open debate,” SNP parliamentary leader Angus Robertson wrote in the liberal-left Guardian newspaper Monday.

“Young people are our future,” he said in the comment piece. “It is their U.K. – and their Europe – so they must have their say.”

Robertson said his party supported EU nationals being allowed to vote in the referendum, just as they could in the Scottish independence referendum and in Scottish parliamentary elections.

He also repeated his party’s call for a “double-majority lock” where each of the four constituent nations would have to vote in favor of an EU exit for the U.K. as a whole to leave the bloc.

The governing center-right Conservative Party has promised an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before 2017, giving Prime Minister David Cameron time to renegotiate the terms of the U.K.’s membership in the 28-nation bloc.

The legislation for the EU referendum will be introduced to parliament Thursday and around 45 million people will be eligible to take part.

The Conservatives had previously pledged to scrap the limit on British citizens living abroad who wish to vote.

“Being a British citizen is for life… we believe it should also give you the lifelong right to vote,” Conservative Party Chairman Grant Schapps said in September 2014.

The British prime minister will meet a host of EU leaders this week, including those of France and Germany, to kick start his EU reform negotiations.

Cameron will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at Chequers, the British premier’s country residence, on Monday evening.

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