Voting in the UK Referendum – the facts

Quo vadis Storbritannia?

Quo vadis Storbritannia?

On Thursday, 23 June the UK’s ‘In-Out’ referendum on its membership of the European Union will take place. In this Just the Facts, which is part of a series European Movement Ireland is producing on the forthcoming referendum, we look at who is eligible to vote and the various methods.

Who can vote

The UK’s European Union (EU) Referendum Act 2015 sets out the basic rules of eligibility for the referendum on membership of the EU. The Act received Royal Assent in December 2015, making it an act of
Parliament and therefore legally binding.

There are 46 million people registered to vote in the upcoming referendum, including those listed below:

  • British citizens over the age of 18 resident in the UK
  • Commonwealth citizens over 18 resident in the UK
  • Irish, Cypriot and Maltese citizens over 18 resident in the UK
  • British citizens over the age of 18 living abroad, who can be registered to vote for up to 15 years after leaving the UK in the constituency they were registered in before leaving
  • Commonwealth and Irish citizens who are registered to vote in European Parliamentary elections in Gibraltar

The 2011 Wales and England Census puts Irish citizens of voting age resident in the UK at an estimated 397,943 with an additional 50,000 in Scotland. Citizens from other EU countries (aside from Cyprus, Ireland and Malta) who are resident in the UK will not be eligible to vote.

Ways to vote

Regardless of the manner by which an individual votes, the voter must be on the electoral register in order to cast a ballot. The deadline for registration has not yet been set.

Voting in person

Voting in person, and by proxy, takes place at a polling station. Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm on polling day, and are usually public buildings like schools or local halls.

Voting by proxy

If a voter cannot attend the polling station due to illness or living overseas, they can apply to vote by proxy. A proxy vote means that another registered individual votes on their behalf. This is limited to ‘close or direct relatives’ of the voter.

Voting by post

  • A UK national resident abroad can vote by post if they have not lived overseas for more than 15 years
  • With the exception of Northern Ireland, any UK national can, without reason, apply for a postal vote
  • In Northern Ireland, applicants must have a valid reason for requesting a postal vote, for example illness, work or study.

Individuals can apply for a postal vote for one election or referendum, a period of time or permanently. If an individual is late in posting their vote, they may present it at the polling station or electoral registration office on the day of voting.


If you are an Irish or Commonwealth citizen currently living in the UK, you can register to vote here.

If you are a UK citizen resident in Ireland, you can register for a postal votehere.

Citizens of no fixed abode can also register to vote by filling out anapplication form which is available at all election offices.

Les også