A great number of you supported our CrowdJustice appeal which enabled us to research and analyse well over 1,600 individual cases of citizens on both sides of the Channel who were denied their vote. We used our findings to get advice from our expert public law practitioners.
Following this advice British in Europe, as explained below, will not pursue further action at this stage. However, the3million will go ahead to start legal proceedings against the Government. You can support them and donate to their new appeal. They need to fundraise another £65,000 in order to issue the claim by mid July 2019 and seek permission from the High Court to proceed to a full hearing.
A message from British in Europe
British in Europe wishes their sister organisation the3million every success with their legal claim although, with great regret, we will not be taking the claim for British citizens any further. We worked with the3million to raise the money to investigate the claims of both groups and to get legal advice on their prospects. A great deal of effort by BiE in a very short time went into two surveys of UK nationals living in the EU27 who wanted to vote in the UK, and these revealed that they faced widespread difficulties and that, as we thought, a great many people were unlawfully denied their right to vote.
Together with the3million we consulted solicitors and had a meeting with a QC and junior counsel. Unfortunately our legal advice was that, although individuals who did everything correctly to be able to vote but were unable to do so may well have a claim against the authorities charged with administering the election in their constituencies, there are important differences between any claim brought against the Government by, on the one hand, EU citizens deprived of a vote in the UK and, on the other, EU27-based UK citizens with similar experiences. As a result our claim would need to be brought against a number of separate public authorities and would be legally more difficult to win.
We are really grateful to everyone who contributed their hard-earned cash to enable us to investigate the claim, but we would not want to ask you to contribute more to a claim which might well not succeed and which would expose the claimants to costs risks of litigating against several public authorities.
However, your contributions will not be wasted. The survey evidence and detailed analysis of the law we obtained will help us to call upon the European Commission to add the experience of UK citizens in the EU27 to the investigation they have already initiated into the problems EU citizens had voting in the UK, and to press for a proper inquiry in the UK itself. And many of the problems for us arise not just in EU elections but in all UK votes, and add insult to the injury of the 15 year rule. Thus we will also be pursuing a political campaign to try to change electoral law as well as Electoral Commission regulations.
We have also asked our solicitors, Bindmans, to prepare a short “Do it yourself” guide to the small claims court for anyone deprived of a vote who wishes to make a claim against the electoral authorities in their constituency or to pursue individual complaints. We will publish that as soon as possible.
Finally, we do not yet know precisely how much will be left over from our share of the money raised through crowd funding for the first phase – we are working this out with the3million and our lawyers – but we will let you know what is going to happen to it as soon as we can. Under CrowdJustice’s unused funds policy, we hope to be able to use it to take forward British in Europe’s important campaigning work on electoral law reform and other issues.