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Lawyers take EU referendum vote challenge to the Supreme Court

Following a Court of Appeal judgment, lawyers for two British citizens, excluded from the EU referendum vote, vow to take their fight to the Supreme Court

Posted on 20 May 2016

Lawyers for two British Citizens banned from voting in the EU referendum as they have lived outside the UK, but within the EU, for over 15 years will take their fight to the Supreme Court next Tuesday (24 May 2016) after the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling rejecting their legal challenge to the ’15 year rule’.

Last Month the High Court rejected the legal challenge by 95-year-old Harry Shindler, a Second World War veteran who lives in Italy, and lawyer and Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan against the UK Government’s decision to exclude British people who have lived elsewhere in the European Union for more than 15 years, from voting in June.

Today the Court of Appeal upheld that ruling following a hearing which took place on 9 May 2016.

However, lawyers from law firm Leigh Day, representing the two claimants, have secured a date for the UK’s highest Court, The Supreme Court, to consider their arguments that under the EU Referendum Act 2015 up to 2 million British citizens are being unlawfully denied the right to vote on the UK’s continued membership of the EU.

The Supreme Court Justices will be asked to consider whether the ’15 year rule’ unlawfully acts as a penalty against British citizens for having exercised their free movement rights.

The rule 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 and private lives every day.

Despite the Conservative 2015 manifesto and the 2015 and 2016 Queen’s Speeches 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 rule ahead of this Summer’s crucial vote on whether the United Kingdom remains in the EU.

Responding to the judgment, Harry Shindler said: “I am still waiting for the Government to tell us why British citizens in Europe can’t vote in this Referendum. The Government had agreed to scrap the 15 year rule before the Referendum bill was passed agreeing it was arbitrary and undemocratic.”

Jacquelyn MacLennan said: “I am disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s judgment. I hope the Supreme Court will agree that the 15 year rule is wrong and unlawful in the context of the EU Referendum. Brexit would have a huge impact on my personal and professional life. Excluding 2 million citizens like me from voting – as the Government recognises - is unjust and unfair.”