Brexit court judgment excludes 700000 expat voters

Published:  29 Apr at 6 PM
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The concerns of 700,000 long-stay British expats have been dismissed by the High Court in a controversial ruling.

Judges at the High Court yesterday dismissed the case for allowing British citizens who’ve lived overseas for over 15 years to vote in the upcoming Brexit referendum. The verdict wasn’t unexpected, with lawyers acting for Harry Shindler and Jacqelyn MacLannan immediately announcing an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that expats fear becoming resident aliens in their chosen EU member states, requesting that the discriminatory 15-year rule be cancelled as it unlawfully restricts the EU’s freedom of movement right. According to Lord Justice Lloyd Jones, excluding hundreds of thousands of British citizens overseas from voting does not restrict any rights they may have.

For the plaintiffs, QC Aidan O’Neill had argued that rights and entitlements such as free healthcare, freedom of movement as regards location, property ownership, the right to work and the right to live according to choice were all threatened by a possible Brexit. Government lawyers, however, insisted legislation concerning the referendum was not able to be legally challenged as it did not interfere with the right to free movement.

The government line stated that changes to the legal situation of British citizens living in EU states could not, at this time, be predicted, and warned the court that a win for the plaintiffs could mean the referendum would have to be postponed. Much was made of the so-called lack of connection with the UK supposedly felt by long-term expats living or working overseas.

Leigh Day lawyer Richard Stein affirmed his firm’s intention to take the battle to the Supreme Court, Britain’s highest. He believes fast-track legislation could be put in place to ensure the referendum takes place as intended, adding that possession of a British passport should be enough to guarantee the right to vote.

Harry Shindler sees the appeal as the final legal challenge and ‘last stand’ for British citizens living in EU member states. He rejects assurances from those in favour of leaving the EU that little change for expats would come as a result, calling it wishful thinking and an absurdity.
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