Michael Gove compares EU citizens in a People’s Vote to extra rugby players on the team

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP on a visit to the Thames Chase Forest Centre with Julia Lopez MP - Credit: Archant

Michael Gove has compared giving EU citizens the right to vote in a second referendum to fielding extra rugby players in a match.

Gove, whose Vote Leave organisation was found to have broken electoral law during the 2016 referendum, said the move would go against a "principle of democratic fairness".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "It is the case that EU nationals don't vote, have never voted, in general elections, and therefore don't vote, have never voted in referendums like the Brexit referendum - and, therefore, we just think it would be unfair.

"It's a bit like a rugby league final, 13 players on either side.

"If one team suddenly said we're going to play rugby union instead and bring two extra players onto the field, that simply wouldn't be fair."

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He added that he understands Labour's argument but that it is "fundamentally an assault on the basic democratic principle".

He said that "fair-minded" observers would object to Labour running the second referendum that way, which he said would favour the Remain side.

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Labour's Rebecca Long-Bailey, also on the Today programme, defended the proposal.

"I think it's right," she said. "I think it's fair to ensure that those people have the opportunity to vote over their future, because essentially this isn't just about the future of people who were born here, it's about the future of people who contribute to our economy and have done for a very, very long time."

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