The details of those allowed to vote in the two EU membership referendums seems slightly different from my reading.

1975 Franchise

The right to vote in the referendum was given to those who were residents of the United Kingdom, who were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs) and other persons with most other forms of British nationality, or Commonwealth citizens, under the British Nationality Act 1948, in both cases, and also citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident in the United Kingdom, all of which as according to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1969. Members of the House of Lords were permitted to vote. Voting took place from 07:00 to 22:00 British Summer Time on Thursday 5 June. The minimum age for voters in the referendum was 18 years, a figure in line with general elections in the UK at that time.

2016 Franchise

If you could vote in the last general election, you can vote in the EU referendum.

For people who live in the UK, that means British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens.

You must also be 18 or over on referendum day (23 June) and registered to vote. If you’re not registered, the deadline is 7 June.

For people who live abroad, you can vote if you’re a British citizen or Irish citizen from Northern Ireland who has been registered to vote here in the last 15 years.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Gibraltar or be a member of the House of Lords, you wouldn’t be able to vote in a general election, but you can vote in the referendum.

The punctuation of the Wikipedia page means I don't quite know if the opening statement is those who are residents AND citizens, or those who are residents OR citizens. This would obviously make a quite a big difference as EU citizens who were residents of the UK in 2016 were not allowed to vote in the Referendum, but would have been under an "OR" reading of the 1975 franchise.

1 Answer 1


The electorate in the 1975 referendum was essentially the same as in 2016. British, Irish and Commonwealth residents could vote. Overseas British Citizens could vote if they had had the right to vote in General Elections. Essentially this is the same as in 2016. In particular, foreign resident members of the Common Market (in 1975) or the European Union (in 2016) were not eligible to vote (unless they were also British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens)

This was not a very big deal in 1975, as there was no freedom of movement, the number of people from the Common Market who were living in the UK was small, and they would not have been able to vote in any other elections in the UK, and would not have been on the electoral register.

  • So AND rather than OR.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:35
  • @Jontia yes. The punctuation in your quotation is rather German-style. The comma before "who were citizens..." should probably be deleted.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 22:09
  • 1
    It's a really good point about the population makeup changes since 1975 though. Even thought the Franchise was the same, what that meant in terms of people affected is quite different.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 10:08

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