Britons should have foreseen Brexit delay says court

British people living in France should have anticipated that Brexit might be put off and registered to vote in the European elections in France on May 26 anyway, says France’s top administrative court.

As a result those who did not register within the usual time period are now too late – and those not registered in the UK, including those barred under the '15-year rule' – will have no chance to vote anywhere.

Barrister Julien Fouchet, who was representing a British woman who had been unable to register to vote, had argued that France should exceptionally have allowed Britons wanting to take part to register after the usual French closing date of March 31 as it was not clear before then that Britain would still be in the EU at the election date.

Britain was originally expected to leave on March 29, then April 12.

Mr Fouchet argued also that France should delay the European elections to allow time for clarifications from the European Court of Justice as to the voting rights of British people and how Brexit affects their European citizenship.

However the Conseil d’Etat rejected the case yesterday saying that “despite the prevailing uncertainty over whether they would effectively be able to exercise their right to vote in May 2019, British people living in France had retained their legal right to register to vote…

“What is more they could not exclude the hypothesis of Brexit being put off beyond March 29 considering that article 50 makes an extension possible… nor even of the UK unilaterally revoking its intention to leave the EU”.

As a result Britons should have applied to register to vote, and in case of being refused by mairies should have followed the usual procedures to appeal the refusal, the court said.

Mr Fouchet said this amounts to saying “our British friends, you should not have listened to your prime minister [who repeatedly stated that the UK was leaving on March 29, 2019]".

“What has happened to the equality of European citizens with regard to the right to vote?”

He said he finds it “far-fetched” that the British citizens should have anticipated that Brexit would be put off, but the French government was not expected to anticipate this and allow the Britons extra time.

“There are other situations where they allow people to register late, but this situation relating to Brexit was never provided for,” he said.

He added however that in view of the fact the court had refused his earlier request for a very rapid judgement and had waited until this week, he had not had very high hopes of a successful result.

“Unfortunately a lot of other British people are now stuck,” he said.

“Thanks to Connexion I had applied on behalf of others too, but now the court has heard this case – and rejected it – the others will not be heard.”

The rejection follows several other similar setbacks as Mr Fouchet has mounted cases on different aspects of Britons’ EU rights in the context of Brexit.

“I’ve had not success so far in front of either the French or EU courts – they have all been groundbreaking cases legally-speaking, but the judges are not taking the slightest risk, it’s too political,” he said.

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