Iain Duncan Smith sounds the alarm about risk of EU nationals voting in referendum

Posted On: 
2nd June 2016

Iain Duncan Smith has called on the Prime Minister to address “disturbing” reports that European Union nationals are registering to vote in the upcoming referendum. 

Iain Duncan Smith on the Andrew Marr Show

The franchise for the vote is similar to a general election, meaning EU citizens are excluded.

Mr Duncan Smith and fellow Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin have written to David Cameron to highlight a number of reports of EU nationals living in the UK receiving polling cards and postal ballots for the 23 June vote.

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They complain that the rules for the referendum are being enforced in a “lax manner” and point to comments from the Electoral Commission stating that the responsibility for registering voters’ nationalities lies with the individual voter.

Officials in charge of the electoral register do not have the ability to check the voters’ submissions, the letter says.

Vote Leave cites an email from an Electoral Services Officer at Nottingham Council who said: “If an elector lies during their registration, we are not able to check to see if the nationality is correct or not. We have to assume that the elector is submitting their correct nationality.”

The MPs write: “We believe the British public will be as shocked as we are to discover that the integrity of the franchise for this long-awaited referendum with profound consequences for the future of our nation is being protected in such a lax manner."

They argue the threat of criminal prosecution for knowingly giving false information is “not good enough” to protect the register.

Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Jenkin ask the Prime Minister eight questions, including how to make sure postal votes sent by EU citizens are not counted, how great a problem the Government perceives it to be, and whether ministers will make clear that EU nationals are not allowed to vote in the referendum by law.

“Given the gravity of this issue – and the fact that postal votes are already being issued and cast – we hope you will answer these questions by noon tomorrow,” they say.

As well as UK citizens, Irish and Commonwealth nationals living in the UK can vote. Unlike general elections, peers and citizens of Gibraltar are allowed to take part in the EU referendum.