Lawyers representing a Finnish scientist and mum of one who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years are to take legal action in a bid to challenge a law which allows Commonwealth Citizens to vote in UK general elections but does not afford that right to EU citizens who have moved from abroad and have been granted settled status.
The challenge, brought by law firm Simpson Millar on behalf of London-based microbiologist Dr Virve Enne, seeks to obtain a declaration that treating these two groups of people very differently when it comes to the franchise is unlawful.
Under current legislation, while qualifying Commonwealth citizens are able to cast their votes, European nationals who are remain living, working and raising families in Britain at the end of the Brexit transition period do not have the same rights.
A discriminatory anomaly according to Dr Enne, who has lived in the UK for 25 years and is a senior microbiologist at a London University where she runs a clinical trial aiming to improve the treatment of hospitalised patients with pneumonia including those with Covid-19.
She has now launched a CrowdJustice page in order to raise the necessary funds to take the legal challenge to the High Court.
Around 4 million EU Citizens living in the UK currently have settled status or pre-settled status.
Speaking of the case Dr Enne said: “The current legislation means that I, and thousands of people like me who have made their lives here in the UK, have absolutely no say in the direction of the country, and our children’s futures.
“Were it only UK citizens who had the vote, perhaps that would not be such an issue. I would simply accept that, despite England being my home, I was a foreigner here, and thus excluded.
“However, that’s not the case. It is not only UK citizens who can vote in general elections. Now that Britain has left the EU, those of us who have made the UK our home and have settled status should not be excluded.
“I will be seeking a declaration that that is unlawful and discriminatory.”
Dr Enne, who is known as Vicky to her friends and colleagues, has now launched a Crowd Funding page in order to raise funds to help fund legal action which will challenge the lawfulness of the sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 that enable Commonwealth citizens lawfully resident in the UK to vote in general elections, but not EU citizens with settled status.
If successful, the government will have to change the law. It would be for the Government to decide how to do that. Scotland and Wales have a wider franchise for their elections, allowing all those originally from overseas who are lawfully resident here to vote. If the case succeeds it would be for the Government to decide how to change the law as it affects UK general elections.
Her lawyer, Dan Rosenberg a Public Law expert at Simpson Millar, said: “This is a complex and technical matter, but the impact on the people it directly affects is quite transparent and easy to understand. “People who have moved to the UK from different parts of the world, and who live, work and raise their families here in much the same way as one another, are not treated the same. Despite working side by side, a nurse originally from Portugal has no influence over the government that is elected, and yet a nurse who is originally from New Zealand does.
“In response to an initial letter before action on this matter, the Government made it very clear, quite rightly, that voting rights for Commonwealth citizens are here to stay, and ‘levelling-down’ is not something that they would consider.
“It is only right, therefore, that they look at what action must be taken in order to ‘level-up’ and ensure that people in a similar position are treated in the same way.
“How they do that is a matter for the Government to decide.”