Supreme Court REFUSES to hear Belgium-based White & Case lawyer’s case on why she should be able to vote in EU referendum

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By Katie King on

EU competition partner at US giant has no right to vote because she has lived outside the UK for more than 15 years


The Supreme Court has refused to hear an emergency case about whether British expats who have lived abroad from more than 15 years can vote in the upcoming EU referendum.

This is the latest twist in a long-running legal saga championed by White & Case partner and British expat Jacquelyn MacLennan (pictured below). The 54 year-old Belgium-based EU competition solicitor, who is originally from Inverness, brought the legal challenge along with 95 year-old war veteran Harry Shindler.


The appellants are both British expats who are unable to vote in the referendum because they have lived abroad for 29 and 35 years respectively.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day and Matrix Chambers barristers Aidan O’Neill QC, Christopher Brown and Anita Davies, the pair have argued that their disenfranchisement is an unjustified restriction on their common law right to vote, and that this law acts as an unlawful penalty against Brits who have exercised their EU law free movement rights.


MacLennan and Shindler’s case has been whizzed up to the highest court in the land just in time for the referendum, and it certainly hasn’t been plain sailing getting there.

The appellants suffered a unanimous defeat in the Court of Appeal just last Friday. The bench ruled that the law in question — the EU Referendum Act 2015 — doesn’t fall within the scope of EU law, a result University of Edinburgh-educated MacLennan described as disappointing. She said:

I hope the Supreme Court will agree that the 15-year rule is wrong and unlawful in the context of the EU referendum. Brexit would have a huge impact on my personal and professional life.

But, unfortunately for her, the Supreme Court did not agree. Lady Hale, speaking on behalf of herself and Lords Mance, Sumption, Reed and Hughes, said that she had “considerable sympathy” for MacLennan — who was in court today to observe — and Shindler, but was unable to discern a legal basis for the challenge. Permission to appeal was therefore refused.

If the appeal had been successful, British expats who have lived outside of the UK for more than 15 years may have been able to vote on 23 June. This decision would have increased the electorate by up to two million people, and potentially have had a decisive impact on the referendum result.