LONDON (AA) – British citizens living abroad have lost a final challenge against a rule preventing them from voting in their home country’s EU membership referendum.
The Supreme Court rejected claims by two expatriate British citizens that they were illegally being denied the right to vote by the government, which allows U.K. residents living in other countries to vote only if they were resident in Britain within the last 15 years.
The rule means any citizen who left the U.K. before June 2001 cannot vote in this summer’s European Union membership referendum.
Harry Shindler, a 94-year-old Second World War veteran living in Italy, and Belgium-based lawyer Jacquelyn MacLennan had argued their right to freedom of movement within the EU was being restricted.
Their lawyers told lower courts that a vote for Brexit could mean they lose their right to live, work, own property and receive health care in their countries of residence.
They also argued the so-called ‘15-year rule’ was an arbitrary figure, but the Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ judgment that it was “appropriate”.
Supreme Court justice Brenda Hale said: “We have decided that it is not arguable that there is an interference with the right to free movement for the reasons given by both the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal in this case.
“We do have considerable sympathy for the situation in which the applicants find themselves. We understand that this is something that concerns them deeply, but we cannot discern a legal basis for challenging this statute.”