EU rebukes UK over 'obstacles' to vote for EU27 nationals

European Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova
European Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova Copyright REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Copyright REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
By Alice Tidey
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Brussels demanded London provide information after EU citizens in the UK "were confronted with a number of obstacles" to participate in last month's EU elections.


European Union Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova requested the UK provide further information about the "number of difficulties" depriving Union citizens from casting their votes in last month's European election.

In a letter sent on Friday to Chloe Smith, the British Cabinet's Parliamentary Secretary, Jourova lists "the fact that the national registration procedure comprised of two steps and required the completion and submission of a separate ‘Electoral Registration form’ in addition to the ‘EU citizens — European Parliament voter registration form" as one of the "obstacles to participation".

She flagged that some EU27 nationals had requested the form but never received it or that the UK failed to process submitted forms in time.

She also rebuked the British authorities for failing to tackle the problems despite similar issues having been highlighted after the 2014 elections.

"The Commission notes that the difficulties encountered were largely recurrences of incidents and deficiencies that had previously arisen during the 2014 elections and which the United Kingdom had undertaken to remedy in time for the 2019 elections," she wrote.

She then added that the Commission "would be grateful" to receive — within 10 weeks — further information on "the extent of the problems experienced by EU citizens" wishing to vote as well as statistical data on the number of incidents reported and complaints lodged with UK authorities. She also demanded that the UK outlines "details of the measures" taken since 2014 to deal with the issues.

Citizens' groups British in Europe and the3million said after the May 23-26 EU election that they might be taking the UK government to court after thousands of European voters reported being turned away from polling stations. A crowdfunding appeal to bring about the legal challenge achieved its £20,000 (€22,692) goal within four hours of going live.

Some 70 British parliamentarians also wrote to the Electoral Commission demanding an inquiry into the matter.

In a statement released on polling day, the British Electoral Commission said it has "made the case" for an "easier" electoral process for EU27 citizens since 2014, but that "improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by Government and Parliament."

It also said that the "very short notice from the government of the UK's participation in these elections impacted on the time available for awareness of this process amongst citizens, and for citizens to complete the process."

READ MORE: Citizens' rights groups to sue UK after thousands denied right to vote

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