British expats can now vote in the UK. | Reuters

It has been a long time coming but British expatriates can now vote in UK parliamentary elections again after years of campaigning by groups across Spain and Europe.

In 2006 a judicial challenge by a team of lawyers to the 15-year voting rule on the simple grounds that it was a breach of human rights of Britons living abroad went before the High Court in London for its first hearing.

Sir Roger Gale told the Bulletin at the time: «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.

«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.

And finally, this week, the 15-year-rule was over turned.

The rules, which will take time to set up, mean British citizens will be able to vote in the constituency where they were last registered on the electoral roll, or, if they were not registered as a UK voter when they left, in the place where they were previously resident, subject to showing proof to local registration officials. The new right to vote only applies to UK parliamentary elections.