Global Independent Analytics

Expats Living Abroad Denied Vote In European Referendum By High Court

British citizens who have been living in other European countries for more than 15 years are banned from voting in the June 23 referendum

Kathryn Snowdon for The Huffington Post reports: British citizens living abroad will not be able to vote in the European Union referendum, the High Court ruled on Thursday. Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan and 94-year-old Second World War veteran Harry Shindler, who lives in Italy, launched the legal challenge. Expats who have been living in other European countries for more than 15 years are banned from voting in the June 23 referendum.

It was evaluated that the measure will affect 700,000 Britons out of about two million, who live in the European Union outside the United Kingdom. The plaintiffs have demanded the judges to declare that Section 2 of the EU Referendum Act 2015, which establishes “the 15-year rule” for overseas voters, unlawfully restricted their right to freedom of movement under EU law.

But two judges said in Thursday's ruling that they accepted the government's argument that there were: "... significant practical difficulties about adopting especially for this referendum a new electoral register which includes non-resident British citizens whose last residence the United Kingdom was more than 15 years ago."

Lawyers for the two claimants said in a statement that they would appeal "so that all British citizens living elsewhere in the EU can be part of the democratic process to vote in this referendum which will have a very real impact on their lives."  The ruling came as a blow to expats who worry that their rights to work, live, retire, own property and receive healthcare free at the point of use, paid for by the NHS, could be placed in jeopardy.

People all over the UK slammed the decision, saying that those who will be affected by the aftermath of the referendum were disenfranchised and that the measure is not democratic.

MacLennan told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program on Thursday that she is “deeply rooted to the UK.” She said: “I am deeply rooted in the UK and deeply connected to the UK. And many of the citizens of the UK in my position are the same.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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