EU Citizens

From May 2024, some EU citizens will not be able to vote and stand as a candidate in certain elections in England.

EU citizens will continue to be able to vote while they remain on the register but some will not be able to re-register once they are taken off after May 2024.

Changes to voting rights

The Elections Act 2022 removes the rights of some EU citizens to vote and stand in elections in England. The changes apply to:

  • local elections
  • elections for Police and Crime Commissioners

These changes will not apply to local and devolved elections in Scotland and Wales.

EU citizens where the UK Government has negotiated agreements with EU Members States to allow its citizens living in the UK to vote, in return for the same right for UK citizens living in that country, will still be able to vote and stand in elections. They will be referred to in legislation as ‘qualifying EU citizens’ and must either hold any form of leave to enter or remain in the UK, or not require such leave.

The countries are listed in Schedule 6A of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The countries currently listed are as follows:

  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Denmark

Other EU citizens who were living in the UK before the end of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Period (which ended on 31 December 2020) will also still be able to vote and stand in elections. They will be referred to in legislation as ‘EU citizens with retained rights’.

The changes will not affect citizens of the Republic of Ireland as their voting and candidacy rights are long-standing and pre-date the UK’s membership of the EU. Citizens of Malta, Cyprus and citizens of Commonwealth nations are also unaffected by these changes.

The Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) will need to review all existing EU electors and process any new applications in line with updated eligibility criteria.  Letters will be sent to existing EU electors from June 2024 to ask for evidence that confirms whether the EU elector is entitled to remain registered. Any EU citizen that does not fall into the ‘qualifying EU citizen’ category or the ‘EU citizen with retained rights’ category will be removed from the Register of Electors and will not be able to stand as a candidate or vote in future elections in England.

The meaning and eligibility requirements of a ‘qualifying EU citizen’ and an ‘EU citizen with retained rights’ is set out in the Representation of the People Act 1983, sections 203A and 203B respectively.

Candidacy rights

An EU citizen elected into office before the measures in the Elections Act come into force, and who otherwise remains eligible, will be able to remain in office for their full term, irrespective of immigration status, and irrespective of whether they qualify under the new eligibility criteria - UNLESS they become disqualified because of another reason.

For EU citizens elected after these measures come into force, the Elections Act provides that the individual must have leave to enter or remain, or not require such leave. Should they lose this status they will no longer qualify to stand or serve as a candidate.