British court rules out EU referendum votes for long-term expats

A court on Thursday rejected a challenge by two expats to a rule denying votes in a referendum on Britain's EU membership to people living outside Britain and not registered to vote for more than 15 years.

Belgian-based lawyer Jacquelyn MacLennan and Italian resident Harry Shindler, a 94-year-old retired man, argued that the rule on eligibility to vote in the June 23 referendum restricted their right to freedom of movement under EU law, "in a manner that is not objectively justifiable."

A lawyer for the two plaintiffs argued that his clients were "being penalized for exercising their EU free movement rights" by a limitation on the duration of their eligibility to vote.

But two judges ruled that the British parliament had complied with EU law by adopting a "more generous provision" that allows non-residents to vote in parliamentary elections if they have lived abroad for less than 15 years.

Britain's electoral rules for the referendum also bar most EU citizens resident in Britain from voting in the in-out referendum on the country's EU membership.

Only EU citizens from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus who are living in Britain qualify to vote in the referendum, with an estimated 1.5 million EU citizens denied a vote. 

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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