Britain's Supreme Court has rejected a bid by two Britons who live abroad to vote in next month's referendum on European Union membership.

British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years are not eligible to cast a ballot in the June 23 vote.

A London-born World War II veteran who lives in Italy and a Scottish lawyer who lives in Belgium argued the 15-year cutoff was arbitrary and unfair.

But the Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the pair permission to appeal lower court judgments that the rule did not amount to an unjustified restriction on their freedom of movement and right to vote.

Judge Brenda Hale said the court had "considerable sympathy" for the applicants, but would not strike down the 15-year rule.