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British campaigner in Italy Harry Shindler awarded OBE for supporting UK nationals’ rights

A World War II veteran who founded a support group for British nationals in Italy has been awarded an OBE for his services to fellow Brits abroad, the UK government has announced.

British campaigner in Italy Harry Shindler awarded OBE for supporting UK nationals' rights
Harry Shindler at home in Italy. Photo: Alex Macbeth

Harry Shindler, who will be 100 years old in July, has long fought for the rights of UK nationals living in Italy and founded The Association of British Expats in Italy in 2010.

After almost 40 years of working to help Brits overseas retain their ability to vote in British elections, Shindler has been included in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

READ ALSO: What Britons in Europe need to know about the UK government’s ‘votes for life’ pledge

The ex-serviceman been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), the second highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, behind CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

The title came seven years after his first royal recognition, when he was awarded an MBE in 2014.

In a statement the UK government said 129 people were being recognised for “exceptional service to the UK overseas or internationally” including those who have “given exceptional support to British nationals overseas during the pandemic”.

Clarissa Killwick from campaign and support group ‘Brexpats – Hear Our Voice’ said, “We are so pleased Harry has received this further recognition. UK nationals all over the world are indebted to him for being determined to campaign for what is right, no matter how long it takes.”

“I am in Italy and help run the Facebook group, Beyond Brexit – UK citizens in Italy. Harry is a very important figure for our group members, who would also like to express their gratitude and add their congratulations.”

She added that she “was struck by his modesty” and said that he is “unstoppable”.

Shindler’s most recent campaign work has focused on restoring voting rights to foreign-based UK citizens who, under current legislation, lose their right to vote in British elections after living abroad for more than 15 years.

In its ‘Votes for Life’ pledge, the UK government in May said it will soon act to ensure that British citizens living abroad do not lose their right to vote in the UK even if they have been abroad for over 15 years.

Shindler, who fought in the Battle of Anzio and took part in the liberation of Rome, has also spearheaded initiatives to keep the memory alive of British service personnel who helped free Italy from fascism in the Second World War.

Speaking to The Local from his home in Porto d’Ascoli on the Adriatic coast in 2018, Harry said, “So many Brits abroad have gotten involved. They’re all coming together.”

He eventually settled in Italy after first visiting as a soldier in 1982 with his wife and son.

His campaign to get Brits abroad the vote has turned him into something of a legendary figure, whose work has inspired the citizens’ rights group British in Europe.

Other UK nationals living abroad have also received a nod from the palace in this year’s honours list, with these Brits in Spain receiving titles for their services to British nationals across the EU.

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BRITS IN ITALY

‘It’s a disaster’: How Brits in Italy are being hit by drop in value of pound

We asked our British readers to explain how the recent drop in the value of the pound will affect their lives in Italy. Here’s what they had to say.

‘It's a disaster’: How Brits in Italy are being hit by drop in value of pound

The British pound experienced a record 37-year low against the dollar on September 24th, following on from a months-long fall in its value.

Though the Bank of England has managed to prevent a “material risk” to the country’s stability by buying government bonds, UK markets remain highly volatile and the slide in the value of the sterling seems to have already caused the price of goods and services in the UK to climb.

That’s in the UK, but how about Britons living in Italy? 

Last week, we asked our readers to tell us how they’ve already been affected and what they expect the ongoing impact of a weak pound will be on their lives unless the currency bounces back.  

READ ALSO: Climate zones: When can you turn your heating on Italy this winter?

We received answers to our survey from all corners of the boot, from Bolzano, Trentino Alto-Adige to Oria, Puglia. 

The overwhelming response was that the pound’s drop in value in Italy will negatively impact the lives of UK nationals in Italy.

Expectedly, most respondents pointed to unfavourable exchange rates as being the most negative consequence of the sterling’s slump, with many expressing concern about having to transfer savings from a UK account to an Italian one. 

“For the moment, it is a disaster; I can’t even think of making a transfer of pounds into euros,” said one reader living in the capital, Rome. 

Another Briton, Carol Lewis, living in Collazzone, Umbria, had similar worries. She said: “All my pensions are paid in sterling. It is making what was already a bit tight financially post-brexit even tighter.”

“Combined with increased costs generally, we are having to cut back a lot on extras and be more careful about how we spend our money.”

Pound coins and banknotes.

Following on from the pound’s drop in value, Britons in Italy are expressing concern over unfavourable exchange rates when transferring money from UK accounts. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Alison Reith, from San Salvatore Monferrato, Piedmont, also acknowledged that the pound’s weakness was putting Brits at a serious disadvantage when transferring money from overseas. 

However, she also pointed the finger at soaring living costs in Italy, admitting that it’ll be difficult to “pay for petrol, food and heating” this winter and “cuts on all costs” will sadly have to be made.  

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy prices rising in Italy this autumn? 

While sharing that expense cuts were in the cards for the cold season, many readers told us how they were trying to overcome their recent money-transferring adversities.

Julius Vloothuis, 75, living in Naples, described money transfer platform Wise, formerly known as Transferwise, as somewhat of a “saving grace” – the website allows clients to move money practically free of charge and sends out alerts when the market has favourable exchange rates.

On a similar note, Dennis, living in Rome, advised fellow countrymen to “act as an investor” and watch the exchange rates on a regular basis.

While most readers were reasonably concerned about the pound’s downswing, some responded to our survey by saying that the event would have little impact on their lives. 

Leslie Whitehouse, a retired teacher living in Bolzano, said that “unless massive, a fall in the rate of pound sterling against the euro will not affect my life”. 

Similarly, Iain Gosling, 73, told us that, having “bought a block of euros last year via [currency exchange service] TORFX”, rate fluctuations haven’t really affected his family thus far. 

Finally, some The Local Italy readers confided that they were actually quite happy with the pound dropping in value.

George Newman, 32, from Viareggio, Tuscany said: “Great, buying a house in the UK now and earning in euros. Tax cut to stamp duty too!! Winning!”

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