Posted by on Jan 29, 2024 in LEGAL UPDATES

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Oliver & Partners were proud to have supported Harry Shindler in his campaign to restore voting rights to the estimated 3.5 million British citizens living abroad. 

From 16th January 2024, when the Elections Act 2022 came into force, British citizens living outside the UK for any length of time may now register to vote in UK elections, if they meet one of two conditions:

  • they were previously registered to vote in UK elections, including as an overseas voter, or
  • they were previously resident in the UK before moving to an address abroad.

Up to this year, a British citizen resident outside the UK for more than 15 years was no longer able to vote in UK elections. This resulted in many British citizens being excluded from voting in the Brexit Referendum, even though they had emigrated due to their freedom of movement rights, and would be directly affected by the Referendum result, losing their rights as EU citizens.

During many years of determined campaigning and legal action, both the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 and the UK Supreme Court in 2016 rejected Harry’s arguments that a British citizen should have the legal right to retain close links with the UK by voting in general elections in order be able to shape the future of their country of origin.

Harry being undeterred and determined to see justice took the case to the European Commission. The Commission ruled that the policy was an infringement of the right to free movement, by “punishing” British citizens for moving abroad, and this in turn led David Cameron’s Conservative Government to legislate to overturn the 15 year rule.

Harry Shindler sadly did not live to be able to vote again himself, having passed away in Italy in February 2023, but he was aware of the Bill going through Parliament and knew that he would leave an important legacy to fellow British citizens in the EU who will be forever in his debt. 

Link to Guardian article