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OPINION - EXPATS IN ITALY

EXPATS

Daily Mail cartoon an ‘insult’ to British expats

A provocative cartoon in the Daily Mail newspaper about winter fuel payments is an "insult" to elderly British expats, says 93-year-old Italy-based Englishman Harry Shindler, who has called for an apology.

Daily Mail cartoon an 'insult' to British expats
The Daily Mail cartoon and Harry Shindler. Photos: @xxtigger_ukxx/The right to vote campaign

A long-running controversy over the winter fuel allowance provided by the British government to expats has reached something of a fever pitch.

Many British citizens living in Italy and indeed elsewhere in Europe were already furious with UK Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan-Smith’s recently-announced plan to cut payments to pensioners living abroad.

Then earlier this month, the Daily Mail published this cartoon mocking the lifestyle of British expats living in France and Spain, suggesting they spend all their time topping up the tan and filling up the wine glass. 

"Oh goody! Here comes our winter fuel." Photo: Screenshot/@xxtigger_ukxx

Shindler, who has lived in Italy for nearly 30 years, responded with an open letter to the newspaper requesting it apologize.

“It is of course offensive to all those British citizens who live normal, decent lives in the country in which they have chosen to live – encouraged to freely move in the new united Europe.

“Your cartoonist Mac insults them all,” he wrote.

The pensioner’s response to the Daily Mail comes as snow sweeps across Italy, suggesting that the newspaper’s view that expats have no need for a winter fuel allowance is unfounded.

Shindler was in Rome to see the city liberated during World War II and said that many other fellow expats had risked their lives for the UK.

“Many of them are ex-servicemen…who fought a war for liberty and freedom.

“We won that war, so now Mac has the freedom to insult more than one million British citizens who reside in Europe but not in the UK,” Shindler wrote.

Rather than abandoning their country, expats in Italy and elsewhere help “keep Britain a leading nation in the world”.

“These British citizens are the country's ambassadors and daily protect the image of the mother country,” Shindler said.

Although the pensioner has lived in Italy for a number of years, he has kept strong ties to the country and is currently fighting to keep his right to vote in the UK. British law currently sees expats lose their right to vote after 15 years abroad, a law Shindler is hoping to change.

READ MORE: 'We will win like the Suffragettes'

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ELECTIONS

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote

The British government said on Friday it will scrap the 15-year rule that had barred many British voters living abroad from casting a ballot in general elections back home.

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote
Photo: AFP

The UK government said on Friday that the rule that has barred British nationals from voting if they have lived abroad for over 15 years, will be scrapped in time for the 2020 election.

The government published its intention to ditch the unpopular law, which Britons living abroad have long fought against, by publishing a policy statement titled “Democracy that works for everyone”.

“We believe that overseas electors contribute to British society and should be given that democratic right to vote,” the constitution minister Chris Skidmore said.

“We intend to give those overseas electors the chance to register quickly and securely so they will be able to register to vote in time of the 2020 election.”

 

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper Skidmore said: “Being British is about so much more than simply being resident in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter where they live, British citizens are still a part of British society, retaining strong cultural and social ties with their families at home and helping to build businesses abroad,” writes Skidmore.

“The decisions that are made on British shores impact our citizens around the world and indeed many plan to return to live here in the future,” he added.

The Conservative government had pledged to scrap the rule as a pre-election promise but many long-term expats living in the EU were left angered when it became clear the government would not push through the change before the crucial referendum.

Indeed the sentiment among many British nationals abroad on Friday was that the announcement had come too late.

“I would have been delighted. Just a few months ago I would have been ecstatic, but now, faced with the impending loss of my EU citizenship and associated rights, the triumph has lost some savour,” said The Local reader Yvonne Flavin.

Nevertheless those British citizens who had long campaigned against the injustice were happy at Friday’s announcement.

“This is great news,” says France-based Brian Cave. “We are nearly there. We shall vote at the next General Election. All those who have taken part in this long campaign will know that it was worth it and as we kept saying: ‘we will win because we are right’.

“Winston Churchill would have said: ‘This is not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end,'” said Cave.

The government will now draw up a bill which must be given the green light by parliament, but all being well all Britons abroad should be able to cast a vote in 2020. 

The next question is will they give Brits abroad our own MPs?

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