In what was called an “extraordinary move” on Friday, just days before the deadline for the close of voter registration for the 23-26 May European elections, the UK Electoral Commission advised against the use of websites which are designed to make it easier for EU citizens to register.
In a statement the Electoral Commission said, “We are aware that some websites have been set-up to encourage EU citizens to register. We have concerns about their ability to ensure electoral registration officers will receive completed applications before the deadline.”
“We are also concerned about their use of people’s data and have referred these websites to the Information Commissioner’s Office,” it added.
Campaigners are now calling on the UK Government to give EU citizens more time to complete a “complex procedure” which requires them to complete two forms, only one of which can be filled in online.
A motion has been tabled in the UK Parliament by a cross-party group of MPs calling on the UK Government to make arrangements for EU citizens to be able to complete the second stage of the registration process at polling stations on election day.
A campaign group has also sent a letter to the UK Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, calling on Theresa May’s Government to take steps to ensure that all EU citizens can vote in the EU elections next month.
So far, however, it says it has not received a reply.
“We are aware that some websites have been set-up to encourage EU citizens to register. We have concerns about their ability to ensure electoral registration officers will receive completed applications before the deadline” UK Electoral Commission
Commenting on the decision, Roger Casale, secretary general of New Europeans, which campaigns for EU citizens’ voting rights in the election, told this website, “We have contacted the websites concerned and we are very curious to find out what exactly it is that has made the Electoral Commission take this drastic and hugely damaging step.”
Casale, a former Labour MP in the UK, said, “Instead of discouraging the use of websites which facilitate the participation of EU citizens in elections, the Electoral Commission should be doing everything it can to make it easier for EU citizens to register."
"I am encouraged by the level of support in Parliament for a way to be found to remedy the situation. Any self-respecting democrat should be concerned about procedures which clearly discriminate against one section of the population and prevent them from participating in elections.”
He added, “EU citizens did not have a vote in the referendum but they do have the right under the treaties to vote in European elections.”
“We are very curious to find out what exactly it is that has made the Electoral Commission take this drastic and hugely damaging step” Roger Casale, New Europeans
Meanwhile, the UK’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has played down the chances of Labour agreeing to Theresa May’s plan to offer a temporary customs union to win Labour over to a Brexit deal.
Speaking at the weekend, he said the cross-party talks on Brexit were like “trying to enter a contract with a company going into administration.”