French legal action over vote ban moves forward

More than 10 Britons living in the EU, including votes campaigner and Second World War veteran Harry Shindler, have volunteered to join legal action by a French barrister against the Brexit referendum.

21 June 2017
By Connexion journalist

   Many of them agreed after a group of academics and professionals based in the UK and France, called ‘Action for Europe’, organised a crowdfunding campaign having heard of Bordeaux avocat Julien Fouchet’s bid to challenge the Brexit vote. They raised money to pay legal fees for 10 participants.

Mr Fouchet’s case, which The Con­nexion broke news of in English-language media in April, aims to show that exclusion from the referendum of expat Britons who had been outside the UK for more than 15 years – means it was illegal under EU equality rules.  He will argue the EU should not be negotiating with the UK based on an ‘illegal’ referendum, and the negotiation directives the EU drew up to outline its objectives for talks should be set aside.

Mr Fouchet hopes the Britons’ testimonies about how they are personally affected by Brexit, will help him pass the first hurdle – gaining permission to bring the case.

He says he was prompted to act out of a sense of ‘European solidarity’ and is charging minimal fees.

Mr Fouchet said he plans to lodge  his request with the General Court of the EU before the end of July. He believes it will “cause a big splash”.

He said he is encouraged by a recent ruling of the General Court that legal challenges to ‘preparatory EU documents’ are acceptable.  That would apply to his case, which centres on the EU’s publication of its negotiating directives.

Mr Shindler said: “We [Britons in the EU27] are more concerned by the referendum result than others.

 “British people in Britain, whatever happens, are not going to have to move, but here we have a situation where two million Brits might have to move – many of us elderly.

“I’m giving full support to anything Mr Fouchet can do for us, especially if it helps get us back our vote.”

He added: “I had a letter from David Cameron promising I would have my vote back if he won the General Election – and since then there have been two General Elections and a referendum and in all of these we’ve been denied the vote. It could happen again if another is called. It is unacceptable.”

Another Briton taking part, Nick March from Gironde, came to France in 1973 with his parents, aged 11. Although he is British he has never been allowed a vote.

He said: “Without an EU my life would have been completely different. The referendum wasn’t a local, Britain-only matter. It’s caused me and many friends so much worry. Were I to have to return to England, I would be in a total mess.”

He hopes the case will block negotiations. “The EU will have no mandate to negotiate a Brexit because the Brexit [vote] itself was flawed.”

The ‘Action for Expat Votes’ crowd­funding is at: https://goo.gl/sbcL6s

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