The Polish government has approved a proposed amendment to the electoral law that will allow British citizens living in Poland to retain the same right to vote and stand in local elections that they had before Brexit.
The bill, which now passes to parliament, adjusts the law to comply with an agreement between Poland and the United Kingdom on reciprocal voting rights for their citizens signed in 2020, during the transition period after the UK left the European Union.
Under that agreement, British citizens living in Poland are to be entitled to participate in local elections, meaning that they can both vote and stand as candidates. The last nationwide local elections took place in 2018 and the next ones are due next year, though the ruling party is attempting to delay them until 2024.
The proposed change to the law means that “UK citizens will be able to participate in municipal council elections and in the elections of mayors on the same terms as citizens of EU member states who are not Polish citizens”, says the Polish prime minister’s office.
As was the case before Brexit, UK citizens will still not be able to vote in Polish parliamentary or presidential elections unless they also have Polish citizenship. They are also no longer eligible to vote in elections for the European Parliament, a right they previously had as EU citizens living in another member state.
The 2020 reciprocal agreement commits the UK to likewise give voting rights in local elections to Poles living in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK has also negotiated voting agreements with Spain, Portugal, and Luxembourg.
An estimated 6,500 UK citizens live in Poland. Those resident before the end of 2020 benefited from a simplified procedure to allow them to stay after Brexit. As third-country nationals, new arrivals are only allowed to stay for 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa.
The number of Polish nationals in the UK, which increased rapidly after Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, peaked at over a million in 2017, but had dropped to under 700,000 by 2021.
Ben Koschalka is a translator and senior editor at Notes from Poland. Originally from Britain, he has lived in Kraków since 2005.