High Court challenge on expat British voting rights to go ahead

Published:  8 Apr at 6 PM
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Lawyers for expat pensioner Harry Shindler have said his judicial review against the UK’s expat voting ban will be heard in the High Court as planned.

Mr Shindler, a 94-year old WWII veteran resident in Italy since 1982, is bringing the court action on behalf of over two million long-term expats living overseas who are banned from voting in any UK or EU election or referendum. The discriminatory rule states that once a British citizen has lived abroad for 15 years, the right to vote is cancelled.

Richard Stein of law firm Leigh Day, representing Mr Shindler and his co-litigant Jacqueline MacLennan, is expected to claim that the EU Referendum Act 2015 disallows British expats’ rights to vote on matters concerning the UK’s membership of the EU. He will also claim that excluding expats who’ve lived outside the UK for over 15 years from voting is, in fact, a penalty for exercising their human right to free movement across the EU and a disincentive for others who wish to follow.

According to Mr Shindler, the action is the last stand for expats fearful their chosen way of life will end should Britain opt out of the EU. In an interview last month with the Press Association, he stated Brexit would have severe repercussions for expats living in EU member states, as well as for their families. He gave as an example his first few years in Italy, when he had to obtain a police permit in order to stay. We were just immigrants at that time, he said, with very few rights, and it’s highly possible that the same situation will return.

An exact date for the hearing has not yet been set, but should the judicial review be successful, the government will be forced to rush through legislation allowing disenfranchised British expats to vote on June 23. According to Mr Stein, the government has time to change the law and empower long-term expats in the EU to vote on a matter which will seriously affect their chosen lifestyles.
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