Why not being able to vote for parliamentary elections makes Helen De Cruz feel like a second-class citizens in Britain.
I received my polling card for the local elections here in the UK, a bitter sweet moment as it is likely my last time voting here. I also received from the Belgian Embassy a letter to register to vote for Belgian federal elections.
I cannot vote for British parliamentary elections because I don’t have British (or Commonwealth) citizenship, and could not vote in the EU Referendum either.
For those who say “Why don’t you just get a British passport?”, well that betrays a deep ignorance of how expensive British citizenship is (£1,330 and rising every year — as of 6 April 2018), how many hoops to jump through (life in the UK test, language test, piles of paperwork to prove residency), in any case, I am not eligible now, and when I would be, the goalposts will have moved again.
Voting for local elections will give me the chance to make my voice heard.
I just got a letter (personalized!) from my local LibDem councillor on how they are working to safeguard EU citizens’ rights. At least now there is a little incentive to listen to our concerns.
EU citizenship is wonderful because it allows us to work, study, retire in 28 (soon 27) countries. But the lack of franchise in parliamentary elections is not good, because we cannot vote for those who would protect our interests.
In fact, EU citizenship is a bit of a halfway house between being an immigrant and being a full citizen with rights. We are called immigrants, not citizens. EU citizens are being detained without having done anything wrong, potentially indefinitely.
The lack of franchise in parliamentary elections creates a second-class citizenship. We are not becoming second-class citizens with settled status, we are already second-class citizens now. Intriguing parallels with ancient Rome...
I usually don’t vote in Belgian elections because I used to think: I don’t live there anymore and don’t pay taxes there anymore. Why should I vote there?
But now, faced with a potential total disenfranchisement and also with the rise of far-right everywhere in Europe, I registered.
I decided to do the Belgian “voting quiz” to see which party fits best with me. It was all about Belgian situations: Should smoking prohibitions be loosened? Should Belgium welcome more non-EU immigrants for positions they can’t find workers for? How should healthcare be funded?
This is absurd, as I am not living in Belgium.
In the meantime I cannot vote for British parliamentary elections.
The EU should allow non-national EU citizens to choose to vote in their country of residence, rather than citizenship. Only then will we not have second-class EU citizens.
This will also avoid political parties cheaply using EU citizens as scapegoats for their own failed policies and austerity.
Would the Tories speak about us in these terms if we could vote against them? Likely not.🔷
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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)