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UK nationals residing in EU can't vote or stand in local elections, says top court

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By Euronews
Someone casts a vote at a voting centre during the first round of the municipal elections, in Saint Pee sur Nivelle, southwestern France, March 15, 2020.
Someone casts a vote at a voting centre during the first round of the municipal elections, in Saint Pee sur Nivelle, southwestern France, March 15, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bob Edme

British nationals residing in European Union member states are no longer allowed to vote or stand in local and municipal elections, the bloc's top court ruled on Thursday.

The case was brought to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg by "EP", a British national married to a French citizen and who has been living in France since 1984. 

EP never applied for French citizenship and realised in the lead-up to the March 2020 municipal elections — held six weeks after the Withdrawal Agreement establishing the terms of the UK's orderly withdrawal from the EU came into force — that she had been taken off the electoral roll. 

She filed an application to be re-registered on the French electoral roll in October of the same year but was swiftly denied by the mayor of the municipality in Thoux, southwestern France.

EP then took the matter to court asserting that it meant she was no longer able to vote or stand in for local elections anywhere as British nationals who have resided abroad for more than 15 years are no longer allowed to participate in UK elections.  

The ECJ, to whom the court was referred, ruled that since the Withdrawal Agreement came into force on 1 February 2020, British nationals "no longer enjoy the status of citizen of the Union, nor, more specifically the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections in their Member State of residence, including where they are also deprived, by virtue of the law of the State of which they are nationals, of the right to vote in elections held by that State."

It noted that only citizenship of an EU member state confers the right to vote or stand in an election.

The ECJ added that nationals of a third country that used to be a member state (who therefore used to have an EU citizenship) were not able to retain that status even if they transferred their residence to another member state. 

In the case of Brexit, this applies to people who transferred their residence to an EU member state before the end of the transition period.

"This is an automatic consequence of the sole sovereign decision taken by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union," the ECJ said in a press statement.