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Ex-pats of 15 years or more cannot vote in the EU Referendum

Shindler v UK (Application No. 19840/09)

The applicants, who were UK nationals that lived in Italy and Belgium respectively and who had not resided in the UK for over 15 years, challenged a rule which prevents them from voting in the EU referendum.  The Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal by confirming that the 15 year rule applies.

The rule prohibits expatriates who were last registered to vote in the UK more than 15 years ago, from voting in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership.  The applicants argued that the 15 year rule was an unjustified restriction of the rights of movement in the EU.  The referendum was of particular significance to them given that if the UK were to leave the EU, they would end up without rights of abode in the countries they inhabit.  However, even if the rule were to be a restriction on the rights of free movement, it could be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate objective.

The judges stated that, ‘In our view, parliament could legitimately take the view that electors who satisfy the test of closeness of connection set by the 15 year rule form an appropriate group to vote on the question whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union.’

Read article from The Guardian here.

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