Action for Expat Votes
RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS TO UK CITIZENS, CHALLENGE THE EU REFERENDUM AND THE ENTIRE BREXIT PROCESS. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT CHALLENGE.
OUR STRETCH TARGET ACHIEVED!
Julien Fouchet has received the first response from the EU court. The EU Council's official position is that a) the Article 50 Notice is valid and that b) a claim can only be made after an 'irreversible event' and so they have submitted an objection to the claim. Julien Fouchet will now file a response by 1 December. He will claim that the Article 50 Notice was in fact an irreversible event as confirmed in the Supreme Court Miller case. The EU Court reply is awaited.
Interestingly and paradoxically, to succeed in their objection, the EU Council would have to seek a court ruling that Article 50 Notice is reversible! A win-win situation which could give enormous support to those in Parliament and the EU who want to stop Brexit. Either way, we gain a victory. The law of unintended consequences indeed.
The legal action is on behalf of 13 representative British citizens including Harry Shindler, a 93 year old veteran of WW2. Our lawyer has said "We will defend one of the last veterans of the second world war who did not agree to vote for the loss of his future European citizenship when he risked his life for Europe's freedom."
Millions of UK citizens were deprived of their voting rights during the EU referendum by reason of having lived abroad for 15 years or more.
Voting rights for all UK citizens regardless of time lived abroad were promised by David Cameron in 2015, and again by the Government in October 2016, with the promise that they would be given prior to the next General Election. These promises remain unfulfilled.
The deprivation of votes to millons of UK citizens may well have affected the outcome of the EU referendum. This may be illegal under EU law.
Action for Expat Votes is supporting a legal action to restore voting rights and at the same time to challenge the validity of the EU referendum.
We are raising funds to pay the costs of up to ten representative UK appellants in a group action. Action for Expat Votes will pay all legal fees directly to our lawyer.
Thanks to our hundreds of donors we have started the first stage of the legal action. When our lawyer achieves permission from the court to go the the second stage we will launch an appeal for the remaining costs, estimated at £7500
More background :
The case will be led by Bordeaux lawyer Julien Fouchet. Action for Expat Votes will be coordinating the project.
The case as summarised by Julien Fouchet:
A legal action to represent the citizens of the European Union deprived of their voting rights during the EU referendum by initiating a legal procedure before the General Court of the European Union by the 22nd of July 2017.
To this day, legal proceedings in front of British courts have been taken to challenge the deprivation of some British citizens’ voting rights during the EU referendum, considered with an impact on the European scale; yet British judges are bound by the vote at national level.
Thus, only the European Courts may decide a serious legal irregularity has been raised during the EU referendum.
Equal treatment of all European citizens is a fundamental principle foreseen in the European Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
This court action will be brought by non-British lawyers in the name of the EU solidarity before the General Court of the European Union by the 22nd of July 2017.
The Government position, clearly stated, is that the referendum of 23 June 2016 was a constitutional decision in accordance with Article 50(1) of the Lisbon Treaty and that no further decision was needed to be made by Parliament itself. Legal experts contend that NO such decision has in fact been properly made by Parliament itself. The effect of an EU ruling that the referendum was not valid under EU law may be momentous.
News reports: The Connexion: https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/Brexit/Brexit-referendum-case-to-be-lodged
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/brexit-talks-illegal-uk-expats-british-abroad-not-vote-french-lawyer-julien-fouchet-european-a7745216.html
Action for Expat Votes is organised and managed by ACTION FOR EUROPE , a group of academics and professionals based in the UK and France. All funds will be strictly controlled and monitored, and full accounts will be published. The funds will used to pay directly the fees of lawyer Julien Fouchet and his legal team on behalf of the ten appellants. The use of any excess funds remaining afterwards will be put to a vote of donors. The Action for Europe organisers have no personal or financial interest or connections with the legal team.
More news about the work of Action for Europe here .
LATEST NEWS - 12 FEB 2018
FINALLY - VOTES FOR ALL UK CITIZENS.
The Government has announced that they will remove the 15 year voting exclusion. The Commons will have a second reading debate on 23 February and it is virtually certain that the change will be passed on third reading. It is not yet clear from what date the change will take effect but that will be made clear before the Bill is passed.
This is very good news for expats, and also for the Action for Expat Votes legal challenge since the change reinforces the argument that the 2016 vote was unconstitutional under EU law.
The Government move could have a tactical intent: to remove the possibility of another legal challenge in the event of another public vote on EU membership - such as the second referendum which is being called for more widely each day. Equally, since the press release says there are more expats outside the EU than inside, they may be seeking to win 'global Britain' Leave voters in any such vote. We will see!
A BIG THANK YOU FROM ACTION FOR EXPAT VOTES FOR YOUR SUPPORT
This is very good news for expats, and also for our legal challenge since the change reinforces the argument that the 2016 vote was unconstitutional under EU law.
The move could have a tactical intent: to remove the possibility of another legal challenge in the event of another public vote on EU membership such as the second referendum being called for more widely each day. We will see!
This is the press release:
"The government will today (8 February) restate its commitment to ending the current 15 year time limit on British expats registering as overseas electors.
As well as removing a time limit on the right to vote for UK citizens living abroad, the government intends to enfranchise any British expats who was previously resident or registered to vote in the UK. This is part of the government’s wider ambition to strengthen the foundation of democracy and continually increase voter registration by ensuring every voter’s voice is heard.
Combined, these changes will mean millions of UK citizens overseas will be eligible to register to vote. British expats – under existing laws – have the lowest level of voter registration of any group.
The government published the policy statement “A democracy that works for everyone: British citizens overseas” in October 2016 asking for views on its detailed plans to introduce votes for life. It set out how it would scrap the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in UK Parliamentary Elections, as set out in the government’s manifesto.
The response to the consultation about the votes for life policy statement will be published on GOV.UK today, ahead of the second reading debate in the House of Commons on 23 February of Glyn Davies MP Private Members’ Overseas Electors Bill.
The policy statement attracted a range of responses from the electoral community and the public.
Minister for the Constitution Chloe Smith said:
Participation in our democracy is a fundamental part of being British, no matter how far you have travelled from the UK. It is right that we should remove the 15-year time limit on voting rights of British citizens living overseas and allow those who previously lived in the UK the chance to participate in our democracy.
Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country.
Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation. Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU."
We remain hopeful and patient.
The Article 50 Challenge maintains that since Parliament has never made a clear decision to leave the EU (incredible but confirmed by legal experts) then Theresa May's Notice of 29 March 2017 is invalid. If this succeeds, it puts the clock back to March 2017 and May will have to go to Parliament for a decisive vote - which she may not win. The UK will remain in the EU. It sounds impossible but we have taken top legal advice.
Action for Europe has been instrumental in developing this latest action for many months, working with legal experts. The action is launched in the name of Liz Webster, another courageous woman who is fighting for the rule of law and returning full control of the 'brexit' process to Parliament, and it is supported by Prof A C Grayling. The Crowdjustice page is here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/a50-chall-her-e50/
Any donations to that cause will help.
More background on the case as it was being developed is in this article from June 2017: It's Not Democracy: How The EU Referendum Was Hijacked - and the Article 50 Notice in Invalid : http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/../../richard-bird/eu-referendum_b_17002040.html
Another article by David Wolchover 'The False Mantra of the People's Will' is on his website here: http://www.davidwolchover.co.uk
Wish us luck!
This is not just about losing UK voting rights at what is a very crucial time in UK history. It is also about UK expats not naving the right to vote anywhere else in Europe either, without taking on another country's nationality. Surely the principles of universal suffrage mean that we all have the right to vote somewhere?
I'm a Brit who has lived in the EU for over 15 years. I am angry that I did not get a vote in the Brexit referendum. My residence, employment, health, social and pension rights are at risk. I am married to a European who will lose rights in the UK. The rights of my children and their spouses are also at risk. This vote has taken away constitutional rights and we the people that had the most to lose had no say. We need to fight against this decision.
Although the EUCJ may not be able to say who votes in a UK addvisory referendum, I disagree that Article 50 notice has been validly given. There are two stages needed, firstly to make a decision in accordance with the national constitution Art 50(1), then give notice under Art 50(2). Both require an Act of Parliament. The only Act of parliament on the issue concerns who is authorised to give the Art 50 (2) notice. The UK prime minister is taking the referendum result as the decision needed under Art 50(1). That is wrong because that decision needs an Act of parliament too (Miller case). Conclusion - the Art 50 notice is invalid under UK law. The European Commission is under a duty to act in good faith, which means they cannot simply plough on with Brexit once they know that the Art 50 notice is invalid under national law. Added to this the unclear position of the UK in the negotiations, often contradicting what was argued in the run up to the referendum is a further indication that there is no real consensus, and hence no decision to leave the EU as would be required for Art 50(1).
The Netherlands government's appeal against the lower court ruling in the Amsterdam case gives what may well be some interesting clarification on what the EU Council are referring to when they say a definitive decision has not yet been made. The appeal document says that a definitive decision hasn't yet been made because the exit treaty has not yet been agreed. Of course from a UK perspective a definitive decision hasn't been made because only the UK Parliament can do that through primary legislation and Parliament isn't in a position to do that until it knows what the consequences of such a decision will be - see the Three Knight's Opinion for further details.
Here is the Hansard report on the 2nd reading of this Private Member's Bill. It is good to see it pass to committee stage but there is much work to do in a. persuading MPs to support the bill and b. address the areas where it falls far short of the Tories' mainifesto promises. https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-02-23/debates/9F6393F6-339C-4813-8C24-BDC41623DF10/OverseasElectorsBill#contribution-5512D079-BB3C-4AE1-A20A-96B8C320E14D
One of the things that would help the wider campaign on protecting citizenship rights and parliamentary democracy is sharing information on the claims and the responses. The responce from the EU Council to this submission is potentially very significant for various other groups. The CJEU apparently doesn't make public the pleadings and responses so as not to disturb the "serenity of the court". Nevertheless sharing information via the CoHub would help other groups.
I am disappointed by the EU council response. I thought from EU comments that the EU were keen that the UK should not leave the EU. Their ‘paradoxical’ response indicates indifference or resignation. As a previos donor on a much reduced UK pension (thanks to brexit) I don’t feel encouraged to throw more much needed money down the same black hold
Congrats on achieving your target of £7500. I'd like to highlight another point that should be addressed: the UK is one of the few countries that denies expats the right to vote in person in their embassies (rather than relying on a postal vote or proxy). I lived in France for 10 years and now live in the UAE, where I watched all my French colleagues happily vote in person in the French presidential election. Meanwhile I received my postal vote ballot far too late from Lambeth Council and my husband still hasn't received his. Finding a proxy in the last place we happened to live in the UK before moving abroad 11 years ago is not easy either. Why can't we nominate a proxy anywhere in the UK? Asking busy relatives or friends to cross London to vote at several different polling stations is unreasonable. We should demand the same rights as other expats. The UK should not make it so difficult for us to vote.
Unfortunately the Overseas Electors Bill to be debated on 23rd Feb isn't a government bill. It is a Private Member's Bill sponsored by Glyn Davies.If it gets a second reading and passed to the HoL it has the potential to correct some of the wrongs of the 15 year limit on democracy. However, it does fall short of what the Tories promised, full voting rights for all British Nationals. There is more information on Glyn Davies's blog http://glyn-davies.blogspot.fr/2018/01/overseas-electors-bill.html
MY LETTER to THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE: Subject: "Petition to retain my EU citizenship. 10s of millions of British EU citizens were barred from voting in the Brexit referendum. Read more ... https://www.facebook.com/tommy.barlow.52/posts/10211590778660201
Democracy has not been respected by those who claim to be democrats and presume to criticise others.. Shame ! But whats new?
I'm a EU citizen who has lived in the UK for over 20 years. I am angry that I did not get a vote in the Brexit referendum. Our residence, our pension and taxes contributed over 20 years, employment, health, social and pension rights are at risk. I am married to another European and we can lose our rights in the UK. The rights of my children and their spouses are also at risk. This vote has taken away constitutional rights and we the people that had the most to lose had no say. We need to fight against this decision. It was discriminatory (as per the ECJ article 14) for both the EU and the UK to agree to discriminate 3.000.000 voters who moved to the UK within a legal framework which is now disappearing beneath their feet. We were the ones who could lose the most, and we were denied our democratic right to vote allowing others to decide our future. It is the equivalent of putting the EU citizens in the middle of the Roman Coliseum while the spectators choose to put thumbs up or down. Do we have a common ground with the expats? I think the EU should be challenged legally for agreeing discrimination of their own citizens.