Europeans in Islington: Give us a vote in general election

Frustration for borough’s EU nationals denied a say in December poll

Friday, 15th November 2019 — By Emily Finch

Eglal Gomaa

Eglal Gomaa, who runs popular Italian café Girasole in Seven Sisters Road, is among those who are unable to vote in the general election on December 12

EUROPEANS who live in Islington are demanding a vote in next month’s general election and have claimed “there is no more democracy” amid Brexit uncertainty.

There are around 20,000 EU nationals in the borough who will not be able to vote on December 12. They are unable take part in the poll even after being granted “settled status” – offered to Europeans who have lived in the UK continuously for at least five years.

Business owner Eglal Gomaa, who runs Italian café Girasole, in Seven Sisters Road, along with a delicatessen called Prickly Pear, said the fact that she couldn’t vote was “really unfair”.

“I’ve been here for 18 years,” she said.

Ms Gomaa: ‘If you don’t have the ability to vote and you are part of a community there is no more democracy’

“I don’t vote in Italy anymore because I don’t follow Italian politics. I am part of this country.

“I have my own business, I hire people from the UK and I expect to be able to vote. As a tax payer we should have a say.”

Ms Gomaa, who lives in Finsbury Park, said she felt as if she was “part of the country and part of a community”.

But she added: “If you don’t have the ability to vote and you are part of a community there is no more democracy and there is no more opportunity for people to be equal. And people are distanced from ­having a say.”

She said the general election would shape how and if the country leaves the European Union.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan

“It’s going to be ­complicated for me as a business owner because if the UK goes out of the EU I will have a lot of complications in terms of what I stock, with most products coming from Italy. I have no say in this without a vote,” she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, alongside the Lib Dems and Greens, campaigned for EU citizens with settled status to be able to vote shortly after the election was announced. His plans were quickly shot down by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the government pointed to concerns over “administrative chaos”.

Ms Gomaa was backed by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who told the Tribune: “European Londoners contribute so much to our society.

“They pay tax, they help run crucial public services, they should have a vote in the general election.

“The Tories might think differently about how they treat our EU friends living here in the UK if they knew they had a vote.”

The Islington in Europe group

Mr Khan also expressed his concern that there were still around 5,370 Europeans in Islington who have not yet applied for ­settled status.

He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that so many European Londoners in Islington have still not been able to secure their right to remain in their home if Britain does leave the EU.

“The idea that we could go ahead with Brexit while so many people are unregistered – which is this Tory government’s fault – should be seen as a national scandal.”

Nick Turton, from the Islington in Europe group which campaigns for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “We’re talking about our friends, family and neighbours who have lawfully made their homes here – and who statistically contribute more than British-born people.

“It’s shameful they were denied a vote in the EU referendum and they’re being denied a vote again now.”

He added that Islington Council has been “tremendously supportive of local EU nationals since the Brexit vote” and said not allowing them to vote next month was a national decision that should be changed.

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