Disenfranchised Brit expats come closer to getting vote

Published:  17 Oct at 6 PM
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A Welsh MP's private members’ bill aimed at ending the hated 15-year disenfranchisement rule has moved one small step closer to becoming law.

The Overseas Electors Bill, brought forward by MP Glyn Davies and supported by famous nonagenarian British expat Harry Shindler, has been passed for a second reading by the British House of Commons. Parliamentarians approved the financing of the bill, but also stated there are serious concerns about the cost of adding some five million voters to Britain’s electoral roll.

The 15-year disenfranchisement law has proved even more controversial since the Brexit referendum, as it stripped the right to vote for their futures for many thousands of British retirees living long-term in EU member states. Notwithstanding the financial ramifications as regards the electoral roll, the bill has strong UK government support and is expected to finally be voted into law.

During Italy-based expat Harry Shindler’s recent BBC interview, he described his decades’ long fight for the right to vote and his joy at hearing the bill had passed another hurdle. Despite losing a good number of court battles during the years he’s fought for long-term retirees’ voting rights, he’s never given up on his determination to see it through, even refusing a chance at Italian citizenship in order to keep on fighting. Now 96 years old, he’s determined to see it out before his 100th birthday.

According to MP Sir Roger Gale, those who spoke out against the bill during the parliamentary first reading should meet of with Harry and attempt to explain the reasons why he should not be able to vote. Sir Roger said Harry and the millions like him who take pride in being British and maintain a keen interest in the mother country should have the right to vote, especially on crucial issues such as Brexit. Following the referendum, there was much speculation about the final result should the 15-year rule not have applied.

Layla Moran, speaking for the Lib-Dems, agreed, saying Britons living and especially retiring overseas are no less British than those sitting in parliament, but have lost their voices due to ‘outdated notions’ of what it means to be British. Other MPs cited administrative challenges and costs to already cash-strapped local authorities should the bill become law, but Cabinet Minister Chloe Smith said the proposed reversal of the law rights an injustice, with the MP from Montgomeryshire stating expat voters should be seen as an integral part of British democracy.
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