Disenfranchised expats lose battle to win referendum voting rights

Published:  25 May at 6 PM
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Britain’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled that expats living outside the UK for more than 15 years must remain banned from voting in the upcoming Brexit referendum.

The battle’s finally over, with those who’ve lost possibly facing an unknown future without having any say in the final decision. To those who handed out the verdict, it was simply the conclusion of a legal argument delivered by a panel of judges who could not, or would not, take into account the effect of a Brexit on millions of British citizens exercising their free choice as Europeans to live, work or retire wherever they choose within the EU.

Tens of thousands of Britons are now denied the chance to vote for the future of their choice, whilst one million or more Irish nationals and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK on 23rd June can cast their vote on a subject which will, when and if they return to their own countries, have no effect at all on their lives. If this is British justice, it’s no wonder that millions of UK citizens have chosen to settle elsewhere.

The huge number of expats who’ve now been disallowed from taking any part in determining their futures will, no doubt, be reassured that the justices have ‘considerable sympathy’ for the situation of the expats who brought the case. Should Brexit become a reality, the sight of plane, boat and train-loads of homeless British refugees descending on the UK’s social and health services might well make the government wish it had stuck by its manifesto promise to repeal the unjust 15-year law.

The total failure of this crucial test case reinforces most expats’ beliefs that ‘out of sight and out of mind’ seems to be the government’s stance on British citizens living overseas, many of whom are retirees. As thousands know to their cost, UK consulates and embassies refuse more often than not to get involved in problems experienced by Brits residing overseas.

Frozen pensions leading to extreme poverty and the recent decision to treat Britons returning from non-EU countries due to medical emergencies as health tourists also indicate a total governmental disregard for expats’ human rights. Many expats chose to leave the UK due to their dislike of changes over the past decades and are now facing the possibility of being forced to return should Brexit become a reality.
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