Citizens of European Union member states will keep their right to stand and vote in next May’s local elections despite uncertainty over a final Brexit deal, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith has said.
Answering a question from Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, Ms Smith said: “To provide certainty to prospective candidates, it will be the policy intent of the UK government that candidates who are validly nominated and elected at or before the May 2019 local elections in England and Northern Ireland should be able to serve that term of office in full, notwithstanding any wider changes to voting and candidacy rights in the future.”
These arrangements are devolved matters in Scotland and Wales.
In a written parliamentary statement, published today, Ms Smith said the government had “pushed hard in negotiations for reciprocal voting rights for EU citizens in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU”, but these would not form part of a withdrawal agreement and the government would seek bilateral discussions with other member states.
Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Local Government Association, said: “Finally the government have taken a baby step in recognising the valuable role that EU citizens play in helping their local communities by saying that they can stand and vote in next May’s local elections. And any EU citizens elected in May will be able to retain their seats for the duration of their term.
“But following next spring, like everything else to do with Brexit, their rights are completely unclear. We will keep pressing the government for urgent clarity on what will happen in the longer term.”