Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Expats lose fight to vote in EU referendum

Expats lose fight to vote in EU referendum


'15 year rule' does not interfere with the right to free movement, says Supreme Court

Two million British expats will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming EU referendum, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The UK's highest court held that a rule prohibiting Britons who have been living abroad for more than 15 years from voting on 23 June should stand.

The challenge was brought by Second World War veteran Harry Shindler, who lives in Italy, and lawyer and Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan.

They claimed that the '15 year rule' unlawfully acted as a penalty against British citizens for having exercised their free movement rights.

However, Supreme Court justices Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Sumption, and Lord Hughes unanimously affirmed recent decisions from the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Lady Hale said: 'We have decided that it is not arguable that there is an interference with the right to free movement for the reasons given by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal in this case.

'We do have considerable sympathy for the situation in which the applicants find themselves. We understand that this is something that concerns them deeply, but we cannot discern a legal basis for challenging this statute [2015 Act].'

MacLennan told the BBC: 'I feel we have tried our best but, having got to this stage and been able to make our arguments before the Supreme Court, we have not been able to change this law, which is so manifestly unjust.'

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