Democracy and the EU referendum: A personal perspective

Democracy and the EU referendum: A personal perspective

I’m not normally one to complain and I’m not the most political person in the world, but I am currently just a bit angry about the referendum on whether or not Britain should remain a member of the European Union. But it’s not about the actual question, or the potential outcome, but rather it’s about the democratic nature of the vote itself and people like me.

Let’s put it into perspective. I am German citizen. I have worked, studied, brought up two kids, and paid my taxes – all over the past 30+ years living in the United Kingdom. Until recently I could not become a UK citizen without giving up my German citizenship, which I did not want to do. You would have thought that after all this time I might have a say in whether or not the UK should leave or stay the EU as I have demonstrated that I have a stake in the future of the UK, but you would be wrong. Unlike citizens of Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Commonwealth countries, I cannot vote in the referendum – simply because I’m German[1].

A spokesman for the British Prime Minister said:

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.”

It doesn’t matter that I’ve contributed to British society, added to the population of the UK (through having two children), worked as teacher educating future generations, I have no say in Britain’s future. It’s as if I don’t exist in this debate, despite the fact that it’s to do with Britain’s future relations with the EU, of which Germany is a part. It’s as if my past contribution to Britain is of no value. What message does my exclusion from the democratic process say to me? What does it say about the nature of British society that it can so easily exclude people with hardly a murmur of concern?

During the Scottish independence debate and referendum, I noticed how inclusive it was. People of all nationalities and backgrounds, whoever they were, could vote in the referendum if they lived in Scotland (and I would have been eligible to vote if resident in Scotland). The English, who lived in Scotland for example, could vote, despite the fact that it was a referendum about Scotland’s future. It was recognised that English people had both contributed to Scottish society and had a stake in Scotland’s future. Imagine the rows and controversies that would have ensued if the English living in Scotland had been excluded from voting. What would the Daily Mail have said; what would the Tory government at Westminster have said? I think you can imagine the righteous anger that would have spewed from them.

(Imagine if this was said prior to the Scottish referendum):

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said:

This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of Scotland. That’s why we think it’s important that it is only Scottish citizens (not the English) that are the ones who get to decide.”

So, why are people like me excluded from the EU referendum? Could it be that those who want a vote for Britain to leave the EU think that us EU nationals living in Britain might be more favourable to staying in? Could it be that that they fear we might affect the outcome? Could it be that they actual fear democracy itself and need to fix the electorate to get the result they want?

Your call. But don’t expect me to be quiet about how I feel on this. All I want is to vote on an issue that affects me and my family. After nearly 40 years living here am I not owed at least this in return?

[1] See:

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