UK Labour party betraying disenfranchised expats over private members bill

Published:  28 Jun at 6 PM
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Campaigners representing UK expats in Europe are accusing the Labour Party of betraying Britons living overseas.

Cancellation of the hated 15-year disenfranchisement law disallowing British citizens living abroad for more than 15 years the right to vote was promised yet again in 2017 in a Tory party election manifesto, but no action was taken. Recently, campaigners introduced a private member’s bill sponsored by Tory lawmaker Glyn Davies, with the bill now slowly working its way through various stages in parliament. However, a private communication between Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement and campaigner Harry Shindler shocked the bill’s supporters by stating the Labour party would not support the bill.

The excuse given by minister Cat Smith was that abolishing the rule would result in too much work for election administrators who are claiming the system is stretched to its limit. Shindler, now 97 years old, is a WWII war veteran who’s lived in Italy since the conflict ended and started the fight against disenfranchisement in 1997. In her letter to the veteran, Smith said the Labour party believes the rule strikes the correct balance between expats’ maintenance of strong links with the home country and the integrity of the present voting system.

Chair of the British in Europe coalition campaign group Jane Golding told the UK media the group is highly disappointed to find Labour puts resources and administration above democracy, adding that over 60 per cent of the 4.9 million UK nationals living overseas were unable to vote in a referendum which has the ability to wreck their lives as well as changing the face of the UK. She also noted those unable to take part were actually promised the vote in 2015.

Due to the 15-year rule, out of the 4.9 million British expats, only 1.4 million are eligible to vote. Shindler was recently given permission by an EU court to sue the British government in an attempt to overturn the result of the referendum. His argument is that its outcome is rendered illegal as he and 12 other long-term expats were prevented from exercising their right to vote simply because they’d lived overseas for over 15 years.

The case will eventually be heard in the European Court of Justice and is based on the argument that a withdrawal procedure by the EU should not have been initiated as expat EU citizens had not been able to vote on losing their citizenship.
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