Judgement that 15-year Limit on Voting Rights is No Barrier to Free Movement within the European Union


A British expat whose attempt to force the Government to give him the right to vote in elections was recently overthrown by judges has been refused permission to appeal


Voters at a polling booth

Many expats think it is unfair they lose their voting franchise after 15 years abroad Photo: Visions of America, LLC / Alamy

By Leah Hyslop

2:55PM GMT 29 Feb 2012

James Preston, a fund manager from Leicester, went to the High Court last year to challenge the ban on Britons voting after they have lived abroad for 15 years.
Mr Preston, who is based in Madrid, argued that the time limit was an infringement of his rights under EU law to move to other member states without discrimination, but the case was summarily dismissed in December.

The expat then lodged permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal, but was informed last week this application has been denied.

“We have the right, and will be exercising the right, to have an oral hearing about this, but I’ve been advised success is not very likely,” said Mr Preston.

“I’m very disappointed; if the appeal doesn’t go ahead, I can’t take it any further.”

The cap on voting is hugely unpopular with many of the estimated 5.5 million British citizens currently living overseas, who argue that they deserve to have a voice in what happens in their native country.

Mr Preston, who moved to Spain in the mid-1990s after struggling to find employment in Britain, claims that he retains strong links with his home, and that it is unfair for the Government to not rate him as sufficiently connected to the country to have the vote, when he will almost certainly be considered British-domiciled – and therefore subject to British tax – after death.

“There’s a perception that every expat is a retiree on the Costa del Sol sticking up two fingers at Britain and drinking sangria, but my story is very different,” he told Telegraph Expat. “I’ve worked continuously for British companies, my wife works for a British company, and my children both go to British schools. And if I got knocked over by a bus tomorrow, 40 per cent of my estate would go to Britain. It’s a joke.”

In his original judgement, Lord Justice Elias said that he appreciated Mr Preston and other expats were “genuinely upset about the rule” but that there was no real evidence that it “does create a barrier of any kind to freedom of movement.”

“It is inherently unlikely that the loss of the right to vote would be sufficient to cause [expats] to up sticks and return to the UK,” he added.

Mr Preston said that he and his wife were now considering renouncing their British passports to take Spanish citizenship, and that it would be “down to the lobbyists” to continue the fight.

Graham Richards, a France-based expat who has campaigned for the abolition of the 15-year rule for many years, said the rejection of Mr Preston’s request was all the more depressing when one considered that French politicians are currently visiting London and other world cities to court the votes of French expats – who retain life-long voting rights and, from this year, will elect their own representatives.

“It’s unfortunate that James Preston is not afforded this right,” he said.

The Government is currently believed to be reviewing whether the 15-year limit remains appropriate.

This entry was posted in 15-Year Limit No Barrier, Europe, James Preston Case, Voting Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Judgement that 15-year Limit on Voting Rights is No Barrier to Free Movement within the European Union

  1. Pingback: Copenhagen Voting Rights Recommendations | Votes for Expat Brits blog

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