Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

High Court to hear 'rolled up' Brexit judicial review from expat Brits

High Court to hear 'rolled up' Brexit judicial review from expat Brits


Government should stand by its promise to give a 'vote for life' to British citizens, says lawyer

Government should stand by its promise to give a 'vote for life' to British citizens, says lawyer

A High Court hearing to consider the rights of two million British expats living in Europe to vote in the EU referendum will take place this week.

Two judges will hear arguments against legislation that excludes British people who have been living in the EU, but outside the UK, for more than 15 years from voting in June.

The 'rolled up' judicial review hearing will begin on Wednesday 20 April, with a possible extension into Monday 25 April if a second day is required.

Leigh Day, the lawyers for the claimants, requested an urgent hearing at which both the permission to apply for a judicial review can be held, and, if granted, a substantive hearing will follow immediately thereafter.

The firm has requested for legislation to be fast tracked through parliament so that the referendum should not be delayed.

Richard Stein, the Leigh Day partner representing the claimants, said: 'We believe that the government has the time now to amend the franchise and empower the many British people who have lived outside the UK for over 15 years who want to vote on decisions which will have a very real impact on their lives.

'This legal action should not delay the referendum, the government should instead stand by its promises and give a "vote for life" to British citizens.'

The firm is acting on behalf of 94-year-old Harry Shindler, a Second World War veteran who lives in Italy, and lawyer and Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan.

Both claimants argue that under the EU Referendum Act 2015 they are being unlawfully denied the right to vote on the UK's continued membership of the EU.

Despite the Conservative 2015 manifesto including a pledge to introduce votes for life, scrapping the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting, the government has not proposed new legislation to reverse this 'undemocratic' rule ahead of this summer's crucial vote.

Lawyers for the claimants will argue that excluding British citizens who have lived elsewhere in the EU acts as a disincentive from, and a penalty for, their exercising their free movement rights. It also prevents them from participating in a democratic process, the result of which might bring to an end the very rights on which they rely and base their working lives.

According to Leigh Day, the judicial review of the legislation, if successful, should require the government to rush through amending legislation to change the franchise for the forthcoming referendum in June 2016.

Precedent for such fast-track legislation exists. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 received royal assent on 17 July 2014 after being introduced to parliament just three days before, in response to a European court decision that declared the Data Retention Directive to be invalid.