British expat loses Human Rights Court voting rights case

Published:  9 May at 6 PM
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Nonagenarian WWII veteran Harry Shindler has lost his European Court battle to have the 15-year limit on UK expat voting rights rescinded.

The 91-year old has lived in Italy since he retired from the British Army more than 30 years ago, but still has, he claims, strong ties to the UK. Angered by an archaic law disallowing expats who’ve lived overseas for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections, he took his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Shindler is not alone in feeling that disenfranchisement after 15 years overseas is unfair, as many more Britons have unsuccessfully petitioned the UK government for a change in the law. He’s not giving up, and is planning to appeal the judgment, saying that Brits may lose many battles but usually end up winning the war.

He added that, if his appeal fails, he will take the fight to the United Nations International Court of Justice. No-one told us, he said, that when we won the right to live and work anywhere in the EU, we would lose our voting rights after 15 years.

The UK government’s take on the issue is that expats no longer have any connection with their home country and therefore should not be able to vote. At the present time, around 5 million Britons live overseas, with most having family still in the UK, UK pensions and UK bank accounts.

The ECHR judgment fudged the issue by stating that a close connection to the UK was not enough to retain voting rights, and that it was up to the UK government to decide the cut-off point. Many European countries extend unlimited years of voting rights to their expats overseas, and Mr Shindler is planning to returng to England to lobby MPs of all parties.
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