SHARE
COPY LINK

UK

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

SHOW COMMENTS