Case study : the 3million and local voting rights for EU citizens
The Brexit referendum and the UK’s subsequent departure from the European Union had a substantial impact on the UK’s political landscape, not least for the millions of EU citizens living in the UK.
The campaign group the3million was formed after the referendum in 2016 and aimed to protect the rights of EU citizens who have ‘made the UK their home’. Taking its name from the estimated number of EU citizens who have established a life in the UK, the3million seeks to:
defend the rights of EU citizens to live, work, study, raise families and vote in the UK as they do now — whatever any further outcomes of Brexit
protect EU citizens’ rights through advocacy in UK and EU institutions, influencing public opinion and mobilising European and British citizens
n ensure that EU citizens in the UK know their rights and are empowered to stand up for them
The objectives of the3million range from providing legal support to citizenship advice, and in particular campaigning to extend rights for EU citizens to vote in UK elections. Under the hashtag #OurHomeOurVote (www.ourhomeourvote.co.uk), the3million ‘welcomes’ the fact that EU citizens with pre-settled and settled status continue to have the right to vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland, but campaigns for all EU citizens resident in the UK to be able to take part in local elections. The group’s objectives are for England and Northern Ireland to adopt a residence-based voting rights system like those of Scotland and Wales, where all residents with leave to enter or remain in the UK are able to vote in local elections. In August 2021, the London Economic covered a demonstration by the3million’s Young Europeans Network and quoted its co-manager Lara Parizotto who explained that ‘it doesn’t matter if you are a migrant, or someone born in the UK, you still have to pay local council tax. You use public transport, your local school, your local park, so it’s only right that you get a say in how these services run’.
While many EU countries provide local voting rights to third country nationals, including British citizens, UK MPs have repeatedly rejected attempts to enfranchise many of the EU citizens residing in the UK. In August 2021, the UK government again withstood pressure to follow the example set by the devolved governments. The Elections Bill (2021) failed to support the campaign to provide all EU citizens resident throughout the UK, regardless of status, with equal voting rights in local elections.