Most European migrants living in Britain are set to be barred from participating in an in-out EU referendum due to be held in 2017.
It will exclude approximately 1.5 million people from taking part in the vote and addresses fears raised by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) that allowing European migrants to vote could unfairly skew the result in favour of Britain staying in.
David Cameron has also set his face against allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote – another victory for Eurosceptics who warned younger people are most likely to be pro-European.
The moves come as Mr Cameron prepares to entertain EU Commission president Jean- Claude Juncker tonight at the Prime Minister’s official Chequers residence.
With Mr Cameron’s re-election on a pro-referendum platform, as well as the four million votes secured by Ukip on May 7, the Prime Minister will tell EU leaders this week that Europe is a live issue across Britain.
Other European figures have already suggested that Mr Cameron’s surprise election win and certainty now that he will hold his referendum by the end of 2017 means they must take seriously his demands for reform.
Legislation paving the way for Britain’s first EU referendum since 1975 and confirming the decision on who can vote will be introduced in Parliament on Thursday.
It will be the centrepiece of Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech.
With Labour yesterday dropping its opposition to the Bill it is sure to pass, although some MPs and peers are likely to try to kill it or challenge the ban on foreigners and under-18s voting.
The Scottish National Party has already vowed to win a vote for 16 and 17-year-olds who were allowed to take part in last September’s independence referendum.
It also wants a rule that the UK could not leave unless “Brexit” was backed in each of its four nations.
The Bill will exclude EU migrants except for those from Malta and Cyprus who can vote because they are in the Commonwealth.
British and Irish citizens aged 18 or over and living here are eligible, as are expats from the UK if they have lived overseas for less than 15 years.
In addition, members of the Lords will be allowed to vote, as will those living in Gibraltar whose membership depends on Britain.
Had the franchise been the same as that for local government, devolved assembly or European Parliament elections, citizens of other EU member states could have joined in.
Last night Eurosceptic Tory MP Dr Liam Fox, the former Defence Secretary, said: “This is a fitting response by the Government.
“Allowing EU citizens to vote in our referendum would have been an unacceptable dilution of the voice of the British people.”
A Number 10 source said: “No Brit under the age of 58 has had their say on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
“It is time to put this right and to give people the choice – in or out. This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom.
“That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”
As well as tonight’s meeting with Mr Juncker – whose appointment Mr Cameron publicly opposed – the PM will underline his commitment to win EU reform.
After the Queen’s Speech he will make a whirlwind tour of European capitals to build his case and seek allies although detailed decisions are not yet expected.
Mr Cameron hopes to have spoken individually to all EU leaders before a crunch summit in Brussels next month where he will step up his drive for renegotiation.
“They need to see his body language, to realise he is serious,” said one Cameron ally.
Mr Cameron is also setting up a new Cabinet committee on Europe to help steer the renegotiations.
He will chair it and members are expected to include such Eurosceptics as Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, to help maintain party unity.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who has said Britain should not be scared of leaving the EU, said yesterday he was confident Britain could secure the changes it seeks, including limiting foreigners’ access to in-work benefits like tax credits.
“The fact we’re having this referendum that the British people have voted for helps to concentrate the minds now of our European partners, so they will take us seriously on these issues,” he added.
“I think we’ve already seen the start of that process. We’re not pretending it’s going to be easy, we’re going to need some patience but I think we’ll get there.”
Latest posts by Sean Adl-Tabatabai (see all)
- DEFCON Alert Raised, US Citizens Told ‘Prepare For War’ - October 21, 2016
- 7 Reasons Why ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ May Actually Be ‘Indigo People’ - October 21, 2016
- Study Reveals Eight Hour Sleep Cycle Is Unnatural - October 21, 2016