By Noreen Bowden | April 26, 2010
A British expat who lives in Spain is taking a case to the High Court in London to challenge the law that limits UK expat voting to those living outside the UK for less than fifteen years.
James Preston is a Spanish resident with signficant ties to the UK, where he frequently visits and has family. He works for a British company subject to UK financial regulations, and will owe inheritance tax to the UK government. He is a UK citizen and holds no other citizenship.
As the lawyer handling the case, Romano Subiotto, writes in European Voice this week, Preston is arguing that his disenfranchisement is contrary to European law, because it effectively penalises those who choose to move to another EU state:
In the context of European law, this restriction – one that citizens of, for example, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain do not have to endure – is contrary to the EU treaty. The EU treaty explicitly grants EU citizens an EU-protected right to vote in local and European Parliament elections in the place of their chosen residence in the EU. It does not refer explicitly to the right to vote in national elections, but it does grant EU citizens the fundamental right to move around and live freely throughout the European Union, without being penalised for exercising that right. Denying Britons the right to vote is undeniably a penalty.
This will certainly be an interesting case to watch. Surely an Irish citizen, similarly disenfranchised, could make a case on the same basis?