The judicial challenge by a team of lawyers to the 15-year voting rule on the simple grounds that it is a breach of human rights of Britons living abroad went before the High Court in London today for its first hearing.
Sir Roger Gale said: “We’ve reached first base and that alone is a significant achievement. Yes, this is the last ditch attempt to secure the vote for millions of Britons living abroad who have and continue to pay their taxes in the UK etc. and so far the European Commission, for example, has been sensitive to the complaint that the law, introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government, goes against people’s human rights.
“It’s a shame it’s got this far so late, it could have been amended in the House of Lords but Labour peers fudged the issue and therefore it was put on the back burner. However, considering the current government, my government, pledged to overturn the 15-year rule in its manifesto, it has an obligation and, considering the pending EU referendum is going to be quite probably the most important they will be able to vote in their lives, they deserve the right to vote.
“Now, we will not know a result on the first hearing this week, but we should get a feel as to which way our challenge is going. Should we win, then the outcomes could be various and I would not like to back one in particular. But should the government be forced to amend the voting rules and give all Britons living overseas the vote, then it would have to act extremely fast. First of all, the ruling would have to be prioritised so that it can be fast tracked through parliament and that would mean both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
“Will there be enough time before the current referendum date? I can’t say. Nor can I say that the referendum would have to be postponed, but it is a possibility,” Sir Roger told the Bulletin after today’s budge which he described as a “pretty good one”.