EU voters in UK to finally have a say on Brexit
European Parliament elections on 23 May will give EU citizens living in the United Kingdom the right to have their voices heard on issues such as Brexit, according to a member of The 3 Million, a lobby group for EU citizens in the UK.
"It is a way for people to voice their frustration," said Hedwig Hegtermans, a Dutch citizen and member of The 3 Million. "We did not have a vote in the referendum, we could not voice anything while we were the people who will be affected the most," she added.
She has been living in the UK for twenty years but was unable to vote in 2016 in the UK during the Brexit referendum to leave the EU. Her right to work as an EU citizen was revoked after UK citizens voted to leave. The government says that the three million EU citizens in the UK can stay but need to apply for ‘settled status’, which has proven more elusive than the government has suggested.
EU elections are to be held in all 28 EU member states, including the UK, which will have 73 seats in the 751-seat EU legislature.
While the election has no sway on Brexit, it will show whether people living and voting in the UK believe now if they should leave the EU or not, a sort of litmus test of public sentiment. The outcome could give a clearer indication of how politicians can deal with the upcoming Brexit in October.
Some UK candidates for European Parliament are aiming for a softer Brexit, with less stringent application of the exit laws, while many conservative candidates are aiming for a swift break from the EU.
The UK was supposed to have exited the EU by now, but its departure has been hindered by British politicians unable to agree on departure terms. Many in the UK are tired of the constant back-and-forth from lawmakers, citing ‘Brexhaustion.’
Both of the UK’s main parties, the Conservatives in power and the Labour opposition, are not expected to have any gains in EU parliament due to voters’ frustrations with how Brexit has turned out and has been postponed.
That leaves room for smaller parties to make significant gains in EU parliament on either side, including the Brexit Party led by former MEP Nigel Farage, who wants the UK to exit, with or without a deal.
Others such as the Green party, centrist Liberal Democrats and pro-European Change UK are pushing for a new referendum that would measure yet again if voters want to stay in the EU, or leave it as originally planned.
All parties could be stymied by low voter turnout in the UK, which has been the trend in past EU elections. In 2014, only 35 percent came out to vote. Others have cited the confusing UK voter registration process for European voters, who have to declare that they do not plan to also vote in their home country.
There is “quite a bit of confusion” about the voter forms, says The 3 Million member Hegtermans.