October 26, 2016

British expats lose legal bid to vote in EU referendum

A British Union flag and a European Union flag are seen flying above offices in London, Britain, March 30, 2016

Two Britons living abroad lost their bid to take part in June’s referendum on European Union membership in a High Court test case over the right of some two million UK expatriate citizens to vote.

The case was brought by 94-year-old Harry Shindler, a World War Two veteran who lives in Italy, and lawyer and Belgian resident Jacquelyn MacLennan.

They argued they were being unlawfully denied the right to vote as, under law, British people who have lived elsewhere in the European Union for more than 15 years are not allowed to vote.

But two judges said in Thursday’s ruling that they accepted the government’s argument that there were: “… significant practical difficulties about adopting especially for this referendum a new electoral register which includes non-resident British citizens whose last residence the United Kingdom was more than 15 years ago.”

Lawyers for the two claimants said in a statement that they would appeal “so that all British citizens living elsewhere in the EU can be part of the democratic process to vote in this referendum which will have a very real impact on their lives.”

Around 46 million Britons are eligible to vote on June 23 on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU or leave a bloc it first joined as then European Community in 1973. Polls suggest the result is likely to be close.

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