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Labour Councillors defend Bedford Borough’s EU citizens right to vote in Local Elections
Bedford Borough Labour Group of Councillors is urging EU Citizens who are residents of Bedford, and hold an EU passport, to make sure they are registered for the vote for the next local elections on 2nd May 2019.
20 February 2019

Councillor for Castle Ward, Dr Luigi Reale said, “The fact is that, at the moment, many EU citizens, residing in Bedford Borough, are confused about whether they can vote locally, given the uncertainty that exists with Brexit, the settled status and any deals to the recognition of the same local right to vote. These are rights that have been acquired for years, for some this is decades, but now in question due to the current ongoing Brexit process.

“While there is no message to the contrary, then all EU citizens, registered to vote in Bedford, should assume that their right to vote in local elections is conserved, at least for the time being.”

Bedford Borough Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver added, “The shame of it is that this could have been avoided had MP’s supported the amendment by Labour’s Harriet Harman to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to Parliament that would guarantee EU citizens’ rights before triggering Article 50. However, this was voted down by a majority of 42 votes. Richard Fuller, who was then the Conservative MP for Bedford & Kempston, voted against this amendment and betrayed not only the 10,440 Bedford EU residents but also the rest of the Bedford community that would have wanted the rights of their neighbours, families and colleagues protected.”

To register to vote go to: https://www.bedford.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/elections-and-voting/register-to-vote/

 For further information or follow-up, please contact Councillor Luigi Reale, Email CllrLuigi.Reale@bedford.gov.uk Tel: 07811 915732.

Note:

  1.  Currently, in the Borough of Bedford there are 10,440 residents, who hold just an EU passport, registered to vote in local elections, about 8% of the total voting population.

  2. Of the 10,440 residents the majority groups are: Poles (3727); Italians (2342); Romanians (1160); Lithuanians (722); Latvian (331); Portuguese (310); Spaniards (276); Germany (248); French (215); Hungarians (179); Dutch (173) and 12 other nationalities.

20 February 2019
Full article written by Cllr Dr Luigi Reale
EU citizens living in Bedford and their right to vote in Local Elections

It is important that the residents of Bedford, that hold anEU passport, are registered for the vote for the next local elections in May 2019.
 

Currently, in the Borough of Bedford there are 10,440 residents, who hold just an EU passport, registered to vote in local elections. As there are a total of about 130 thousand voters, this represents 8% of the total voting population. Of the 10,440 residents the majority groups are: Poles (3727); Italians (2342); Romanians (1160); Lithuanians (722); Latvian (331); Portuguese (310); Spaniards (276); Germany (248); French (215); Hungarians (179); Dutch (173) and 12 other nationalities.


Bedford has always been a town with unique qualities in terms of its immigrant population. It is a multicultural reality and is inclusive of many different nationalities not only European. It is a peaceful and tolerant town where the processes of integration and sharing of values ​​are an everyday reality. Local MPs, Mayors and Councillors have always been aware of this unique multicultural aspect of the town and have been proud of the communities that live here.


The fact is that, at the moment, many EU citizens, residing in Bedford Borough, are confused about whether they can vote locally, given the uncertainty that exists with Brexit, the settled status and any deals to the recognition of the same local right to vote. These are rights that have been acquired for years – for some this is decades - but now in question due to the current ongoing Brexit process. Therefore it is important to try and clarify, what is the current situation (February 2019) and what maybe the future in the maintenance of this specific right.
The Home Office has not given any resolute provision in this regard, but has expressed a generic positive opinion about the possibility of being able to maintain the right to vote in the upcoming local elections of 2 May 2019.While there is no message to the contrary, then all EU citizens, registered to vote in Bedford, should assume that their right to vote is conserved, at least for the time being.
 

Since 1994, with the introduction of the European Directive 94/80 / EF of 19 December 1994, it was possible to extend the right to vote only for local elections to all EU citizens resident in the UK and vice versa, to all English citizens resident in other member countries of the European Union. From the very beginning of this Directive, the objective was to create greater inclusion and participation in the collective life of the community where one lived; to create greater integration and responsibility both for rights and duties; and, greater sharing of values ​​and responsibilities in the country where one resided.
 

Some European countries, even before the 1994 Directive, had bilateral agreements in place that extended the rights to vote for their citizens in the respective Countries of residence. It is hoped that in these pre-1994 cases the security of the right to vote remains fully guaranteed.
 

What is interesting is that in recent weeks some activity on this issue has been taking place but appears to have passed almost unnoticed. On the 21st January 2019, The British Government through Robin Walker, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has signed a new bilateral agreement, for the mutual recognition of the right to vote between the United Kingdom and Spain. This move is welcomed and would seem to have resolved the matter for Spanish citizens. However, one would have expected that on this rather sensitive issue that Robin Walker would have looked at producing a much broader agreement, including all EU citizens, which was not tangled up with the current negotiations on Brexit.

 

The shame of this is that back in February 2017, the Labour MP, Harriet Harman, brought an amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill to Parliament that would guarantee EU citizens’ rights before triggering Article 50. This amendment would have ensured that all EU citizens, legally living in the UK on June 23rd – the date of the EU Referendum – would have their right to stay protected. However, this was voted down by a majority of 42 votes. Our then Conservative MP for Bedford & Kempston – Richard Fuller – voted against this amendment and betrayed not only the 10,440 Bedford residents but also the rest of the Bedford community that would have wanted the rights of their neighbours, families and colleagues protected.  A serious mistake and a missed opportunity, given the way that the whole Brexit process has now evolved, this would have effectively lightened the whole package on Brexit, on one of the most sensitive chapters i.e.the way it affects the lives of millions of people in the UK, and of many English people living in the countries of the Union. In fact, had the British Government been able to detach the issue of the rights of EU residents from the rest of the Brexit process then it may have gone some way in creating some peace of mind. Instead it remains an error of judgment and political Machiavellism that has only produced more confusion and ill feeling.
 

To register for the vote is very easy, do not give up this fundamental right, it takes less than 5 minutes, on the following link:

 

https://www.elector8.co.uk/WebForm/OnlineRegistrationDetails/45/12

By Cllr Dr Luigi Reale, Labour Councillor for Castle Ward in Bedford

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