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EU Referendum: Britons abroad, register to vote before 16th May!

The UK will vote on Thursday 23rd June on whether to remain in, or leave, the European Union.

Those of us Britons who have lived abroad for more than 15 years won’t be able to have our say in that referendum, despite the fact that the result will affect us all significantly – arguably, more than many Britons living in the UK.

So it’s more important than ever that we find as many Britons abroad as possible who are not affected by the 15-year ban to represent us. To do that, we must urge them all to register to vote, ideally before 16th May, the cut-off date recommended by Electoral Commission. Attempts to register after 16th May may not succeed, so do it now!

So please spread the word, and get as many people as possible to register, by going to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote preferably before 16th May. To register, you’ll need your current address abroad, your last address in the UK, your passport details and your UK National Insurance number. The website will also invite you to sign up for either a postal vote or a proxy vote.

Even if you think you may already be registered, because you registered last year, please check your status on www.gov.uk/register-to-vote – voter registration has to be renewed every year.

If you’re a Brit in France - #YourVoteMatters! Register to vote now!

Lawyers take EU referendum vote challenge to the Supreme Court

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 on Tuesday 24th May 2016, after the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling rejecting their legal challenge to the ’15 year rule’.

The Supreme Court is televised and therefore you may be able to watch proceedings on your computer, between 10.00 and 13.00 British Summer Time, via the following link: https://www.supremecourt.uk/live/court-02.html or via the Supreme Court's home page https://www.supremecourt.uk/index.html.

In April 2016 the High Court rejected the legal challenge by 94-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.

On 20th May the Court of Appeal upheld that ruling, following a hearing on 9th May 2016.

However, lawyers from law firm Leigh Day, representing the two claimants, have secured the date of Tuesday 24th May 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 the crucial vote on 23rd June on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the EU, or leave 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.”

If on 24th May the Supreme Court were to uphold the High Court and Court of Appeal judgments, the logican next recourse would be to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and/or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

What the Votes For Life Bill could look like

Daily Telegraph journalist Philip Johnston suggested on 28 April ("If British expats are allowed to vote, they could very well swing the EU referendum", http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/26/if-british-expats-are-allowed-to-vote-they-could-very-well-swing/ ) that the legislation to scrap the hated and undemocratic 15-year ban on voting rights for Brits abroad is "already well advanced". If so, why has the Votes For Life Bill, promised in the Conservative manifesto and the Queen's Speech last May, still not come before Parliament?

Could it be because to draft the Bill would involve an enormous amount of work? The BCC has written to the Telegraph pointing out that drafting the Votes For Life Bill could hardly be simpler. We provided the modest suggestion below, which amounts to a mere 87 words:

"Each of the following provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1985 (as amended by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000), namely—
Extension of franchise to British citizens overseas
(a) section 1(3) (c) and (4) (a) (conditions to be satisfied by British citizen in order to qualify as overseas elector in relation to parliamentary election), and
(b) section 3(3) (c) and (4) (a) (conditions to be satisfied by peer in order to qualify as overseas elector in relation to European Parliamentary election),
shall be repealed.
"

 


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