Following a Home Affairs Select Committee recommendation in 1983, the government of the day introduced the Representation of the People Act 1985, which provided for British citizens resident abroad to be able to remain on the electoral register for a period of five years. The Representation of the People Act 1989 subsequently extended the period to 20 years, which was then reduced to 15 years by the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
The current law means that an estimated one million citizens who do not hold British citizenship, namely Irish nationals and Commonwealth citizens who are lawfully in the resident in the UK or Gibraltar at the date of the referendum, have the right to vote.
Harry Schindler, a World War Two veteran and British expat living in Italy, and Jacquelyn MacLennan, a Belgian based lawyer, argued that the 15 year rule acted as a penalty for them having exercised their EU free movement rights, and was an infringement of their common law right to vote.
Mr Schindler was born in London in 1921, is a British national and is not a national of any other State. He retired to Italy, and continues to pay taxes in the UK on his pension. Ms MacLennan is also a British national and was born in Scotland in 1961. In 1987, she joined a legal firm in Brussels, and has lived and worked there ever since.
The five Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected the challenge.