“Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice using the agencies available in the UK...have so far failed."
A cross-party group of 38 UK MEPs has called on a high-level international legal commission to intervene over ‘declining democratic standards’ in the UK.
The letter (below) to the Venice Commission has been signed by almost half the UK’s newly elected MEPs, as well as some outgoing MEPs. It raises concerns over the exclusion of specific groups of voters and undemocratic standards in both the EU referendum in 2016 and this year’s European elections.
The Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat MEPs have asked the commission to investigate breaches of spending rules and data-protection laws as well as the exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from voting during the 2016 referendum.
They have also asked them to investigate the disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries and non-UK EU citizens resident in the UK from the European elections this year.
It comes as MPs prepare to take the Met police to court, after the force has failed to investigate alleged offences by Brexit campaigners for nearly a year. Vote Leave was fined £61,000 last July after the Electoral Commission after found that the campaign group had coordinated with BeLeave in breach of referendum rules.
The government may also face court action after thousands of EU citizens in the UK were denied a vote in the European elections. The European Parliament is investigating the #DeniedMyVote scandal.
Labour MEP, Claude Moraes, who is Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee, said:
“It is clear that this Conservative Government has refused to take seriously the disenfranchisement of citizens who were entitled to carry out their most important democratic right to vote.
“The deafening silence from this Government to calls for an inquiry or even any signs of concern suggests a decline in democratic standards and force us to take this serious step of reaching out to a respected, high-level legal body, the Vienna Commission. Brexit is producing many negative consequences – a decline in our democratic standards should not be one of them.”
Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, who coordinated the letter, added:
“It is clear that our existing government, and certainly none of the contenders for the Tory leadership, have the slightest intention of addressing the worrying decline in our democratic standards. People are being excluded and laws have been broken. But most worryingly of all, it is our democracy itself that is broken.
“Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice, using the agencies available in the UK such as the Electoral Commission and National Crime Agency, have so far failed. It is time to look further afield to international bodies upholding democratic standards and protecting the rule of law, which is why we are taking our case to the Vienna Commission.”
Letter: To the Chair of the Council for Democratic Elections Venice Commission
Dear Mr Kask,
We must begin by congratulating you and your team on your excellent work upholding democratic standards and protecting the rule of law.
For some time, we have had concerns about declining democratic standards in our own country and we believe an intervention by the Venice Commission would be timely and supportive.
Our concerns are fairly wide-ranging and involve the exclusion of specific groups of voters as well as an increasing sense that both the European elections this year and the EU referendum 2016 did not reach the standards we would expect from a well-established democracy.
The specific instances of concern are:
- The breach of spending rules and data-protection laws during the EU referendum in June 2016.
- The exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from the franchise for the EU referendum.
- The government’s approach to the European Elections last month, which involved leaving planning very late and put intolerable pressure on electoral services departments of local authorities.
- The disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries whose postal votes did not arrive in time.
- The disenfranchisement of non-UK EU citizens due to the two-step process for registration in the UK and including a declaration by post that citizens were not voting elsewhere in the EU.
These individual instances where the UK has not met adequate democratic standards form part of a picture of a democracy under pressure and we are not convinced that our existing government has either the will or the capacity to address these issues.
We would appeal to you to offer your legal expertise in support of our democratic standards and to undertake an investigation into the issues raised here.
With thanks and best wishes,
- Molly Scott Cato MEP
- Claude Moraes MEP
- Richard Corbett MEP
- Jackie Jones MEP
- Seb Dance MEP
- Wajid Khan MEP
- Clare Moody MEP
- Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
- Theresa Griffin MEP
- Julie Ward MEP
- Derek Vaughan MEP
- Ellie Chowns MEP
- Magid Magid MEP
- Gina Dowding MEP
- Alex Phillips MEP
- Catherine Rowett MEP
- Scott Ainslie MEP
- Jean Lambert MEP
- Keith Taylor MEP
- Jill Evans MEP
- Alyn Smith MEP
- Aileen McLeod MEP
- Catherine Bearder MEP
- Bill Newton Dunn MEP
- Barbara Gibson MEP
- Lucy Nethsingha MEP
- Irina Von Wiese MEP
- Dinesh Dhamija MEP
- Luisa Porritt MEP
- Chris Davies MEP
- Jane Brophy MEP
- Sheila Ritchie MEP
- Anthony Hook MEP
- Judith Bunting MEP
- Caroline Voaden MEP
- Martin Horwood MEP
- Phillip Bennion MEP
- Shaffaq Mohammed MEP
Separately, the Brexit Party has been told by the Electoral Commission to check its donations and tighten up its processes, after a loophole was revealed that could allow foreign donations to the party.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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