The European Commission raised the example of a British pensioner who retires to France but keeps in contact
with friends, owns a flat in the UK and follows political developments on British radio and TV, yet is unable to take part in elections.
Last year Harry Shindler, 91, a war veteran and long-term resident of Italy, lost a case at the European Court of
Human Rights to regain the vote.
The ECHR said it its judgement that links such as property, pensions and bank accounts did not amount to a close connection to the UK, and it is up to the British Government to choose a cut-off point.
Commission said principle behind the “disenfranchisement rules” that expats have insufficient ties to their home country “seems outdated in today’s interconnect world”.
Denmark, Ireland, Cyrpus and Malta should also repeal
similar rules, the commission said.
Graham Richards, of the Votes for Expats Campaign, said the right was particularly important given prospect of an EU referendum vote. "Why is it that the French government, and other EU governments, encourage their
expats now living abroad to vote, and provide polling booths?" he said.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said the announcement was another example of European interference in national matters.
The right to freedom of movement is being used
to trump British laws and “broaden EU competencies,” Mr Grayling told MPs.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The issue of who votes in domestic elections is clearly a matter for national governments and not the European Commission.
The Government’s position has been backed by the Courts and the Government is not minded to change it.”
Under plans revealed yesterday, the public will be able to register to vote online, including using a smartphone or a tablet, instead
of returning a paper form by post. Officials hope it will cut down on fraudulent “ghost” voters.