Expats lose Supreme Court battle over Brexit vote rights

Two British expats living abroad have lost their Supreme Court battle over the right to vote in June’s EU referendum.

The UK’s highest court upheld the decisions of both the High Court and Court of Appeal in what was the pair’s last chance to overturn the ruling that UK citizens are not eligible to vote on 23 June if they have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years.

As previously reported, World War Two veteran Harry Shindler, 94, who lives in Italy, and lawyer and Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan, 54, brought the action to the High Court, only to see it rejected.

They were seeking to vote even though they’d lived abroad for more than 15 years. The two argued that the results of the referendum would directly affect them, and others in a similar situation, and that the 15-year cut-off was “arbitrary”

But, the five Supreme Court justices – Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Sumption and Lord Hughes – unanimously rejected the last-ditch legal challenge. As reported on the BBC’s website, Ms MacLennan said she was “desperately disappointed” with the ruling.

Giving the verdict, 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.”

She added: “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).”

More than two million British expats are believed to be affected by the decision, which marks the end of the legal battle for an expat’s right to vote.

According to the BBC news website, Ms MacLennan, who had travelled by train from Brussels to be at the hearing said: “I thought our arguments were very compelling.

“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.”

Both Mr Shindler and Ms MacLennan wanted to vote to oppose Brexit.

Citizens from all other countries, who are living in the UK, will also not get a vote.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Robinson
Deputy Editor, International Investment and Head of Video at Open Door Media Publishing. A fully qualified journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years' financial services experience, both as journalist and originally as an IFA.

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