Expats in High Court bring legal action over exclusion from Brexit referendum

Law firm Leigh Day have confirmed that will begin formal legal proceedings in the High Court in London on Wednesday 16th March 2016 against the UK Government over its decision to exclude up to 2 million British people living in the European Union from the right to vote in June’s EU Referendum.

Amongst those the London based law firm is acting on behalf of is  94-year-old Harry Shindler, a Second World War veteran who lives in Italy. Lawyers will argue that that under the EU Referendum Act 2015 Mr Shindler and other expats are being denied the right to vote on the UK’s continued membership of the EU.

Despite the Conservative 2015 manifesto including the 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 UK government have not proposed any legislation to reverse this ‘undemocratic’ rule ahead of this Summer’s crucial vote on whether the United Kingdom remains in the EU.

Official legal action will begin this week when papers are filed at the High Court for an urgent judicial review of the compatibility of the provisions of the EU Referendum Act and EU law.

Lawyers for the claimants state that excluding UK expats who have lived elsewhere in the EU for more than 15 years 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 EU law rights on which they rely and base their working lives.

The judicial review of the legislation, if successful, would require the Government to rush through amending legislation to change the franchise for the forthcoming referendum in June 2016.

According to lawyers there is precedent for such fast track legislation going through Parliament in a matter of days, they point to the the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2014 after being introduced before Parliament just three daty before, on 14 July 2014, in response to a European Court decision that declared the Data Retention Directive to be invalid.

Richard Stein, the lawyer from Leigh Day representing the claimants, said:

“Our clients are being penalised for exercising their EU free movement rights.

“The EU Referendum Act 2015 is said to be based on legislation for UK parliamentary general elections.  But it gives a vote in the EU Referendum to members of the House of Lords, as well as to Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are resident in Gibraltar.  None of these are allowed to vote in UK general elections.

“The people it arbitrarily excludes are those UK citizens who are among those most likely to be affected by the decision taken by voters in this referendum.

“Not to allow them to vote on the decision whether the UK remains part of the EU is unlawful and we have asked the Court to deal with the issues urgently so that the Act can be amended before the June date, to include all UK citizens residing in the EU for however long.”

Charlotte Oliver, an English lawyer based in Rome who runs her own practice in the Italian capital and supports the legal action being taken, said:

“I am one of millions of people who make up the ever-increasing international British community, having lived in Italy since 2001 for family reasons. However,  I still consider the UK my home, and the place where I will retire one day.

“As the Conservative Party made clear in their manifesto, there should be a vote for life for British citizens. The cut off point of 15 years is arbitrary and arcane given travel and communications have improved so much since it was imposed in 1982.

“It does not prove that a person has severed all ties with their country of origin.  I cannot vote in Italian elections either as I am not an Italian national, so I am disenfranchised.

“I am a dual qualified English and Italian lawyer and represent international clients in Italy, the majority of whom are British nationals. I can practise here as a result of the European Directive on the Freedom of Establishment of lawyers in other member states.

“The decision of the UK to stay in or leave the EU is therefore something which affects me personally and professionally.  I believe I should have the right to have my voice heard.”

This entry was posted in British Expat franchise not rigging EU Ref., EU Ref Votes for Life Response, EU Ref. excluded British Expats React, Expats in High Court Challenge 16 March 2016, Freedom of Movement in EU, Harry Shindler Presses PM., Harry Shindler vs UK, Harry Shindler: Why Stiil 15 yr limit for EU Referendum?, Impact of Brexit on 2 mill Expat Brits, Voting Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Expats in High Court bring legal action over exclusion from Brexit referendum

  1. J davies says:

    If all of you think so much of the UK why don’t you live there.

  2. Your post is nice. It seems amazing. You give me the motivation. Thanks for sharing it not just for me but for everyone

  3. Jonathan Eaton says:

    I’m an British ex serviceman living in the Netherlands for the last 18 years. Again I am in the same position where having been willing to give so much to my country I feel rather abandoned by not being able to exercise the very right which I volunteered to defend.

  4. Pingback: Government’s Response: Extending EU Ref. Voting Rights to All UK Citizens Living Abroad. | Votes for Expat Brits blog

  5. Frank woods says:

    I am one of the millions denied the vote in the referendum.living in Italy for family reasons but always looking forward to eventual return to England…my domicile already decided for me….British born of British born parents ….to be denied the vote on such a monumental issue is a tragedy.This issue must be addresed now .frank woods

  6. Robert Kemp says:

    I am a UK citizen who has been living in Hong Kong for over 15 years. Under the Maastricht Treaty I am also an EU citizen.

    I think it is feudal that I now face losing this citizenship without being able to vote.

  7. Andrew Dawson says:

    I have worked and lived in Italy for 42 years and like many others in my situation am totally disenfranchised and seemingly ignored by successive British governments. I sent a letter to Mr Cameron on 1 March 2016 which basically sustained the same set of arguments as the lawyers mentioned above but unsurprisingly my letter has remained without a reply. In agreement with Susan Coward, I suspect Cameron really wants “out” otherwise he would have ensured the vote for us 2 million expats, the vast majority of whom, I believe, would vote to remain in the EU.

  8. Susan Coward says:

    That makes quite a lot of us feeling that way. I’m a long-term British resident in Greece and can only vote in EU and local elections. I have written to both sides on the argument in the UK about how to go about getting the right to vote back and no one has yet replied. I’m not convinced anyone is really listening to us at all. But this is an interesting legal move. It will not have any effect on whether we will be able to vote unfortunately. “It is not possible for Parliament to change the franchise without fresh primary legislation which would significantly delay the referendum, the date for which has also now been set by legislation.” So clearly they wanted to exclude us, otherwise they could have changed the legislation and then had the referendum. I am wondering if dear David secretly wants out of the EU after all but wants it to seems that he doesn’t.
    As an aside – I somewhat resent the term ‘expat’, I just chose to leave the UK. I am as patriotic as the next person, especially since as a non-Greek I am constantly asked about UK policies, rules, opinions, royalty etc. You couldn’t forget about being from the UK even if you wanted to.

  9. Anthony Brock says:

    As a recipient of a small British state pension and the basic Spanish state pension, I am a long-term British resident in Spain but, like Charlotte Oliver above, I am disenfranchised in both countries. If it helps, I would like to add my voice to the call for a change to this situation before the all importanant in/out referendum. Sincerely. Anthony Brock Altea Spain

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