As the story broke that Theresa May would face a vote of no-confidence on the evening of December 12th, the uncertainty that many Brits across Europe face merely intensified.
In a press release headlined 'Politicians are playing Russian roulette with our lives', British in Europe, the group that counts 30,000 members across Europe but is campaigning for the rights of more than a million Brits living in the EU, said the delayed vote and the leadership challenge “obscured the dramatic position of the five million citizens most affected by Brexit”.
The figure of five million is reached by combining the total number of Brits living in Europe, as well as the total figure for EU citizens living in the UK. More than 50,000 Brits live in Italy alone – some estimates suggest that number is higher.
The delays entail “huge risks for citizens whose lives have been on hold for over 900 days,” added British in Europe.
British in Europe also reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement “takes away key freedom of movement and associated rights like the right to provide cross-border services and recognition of qualifications across the EU 27”.
Nevertheless, what Brits fear the most is what will happen to them on March 30th in the event that Britain should exit the bloc without a deal. Brits would effectively become third-country nationals. Their status would change and they would become subject to a spate of tougher migration laws.
“A default to Third Country National status would make all Britons effectively illegal immigrants on 30 March 2019,” states British in Europe.
Brits in Italy are equally upset as their EU counterparts.
“I am furious with Theresa May. British citizens living in the EU have waited two years to know where we stand: we have always been told we are the first priority; but now she shows her absolute contempt for us by putting back the vote on our future in the vain hope of saving her job by getting concessions from the EU that she cannot possibly get,” Jeremy Morgan, a committee member of British in Italy, a group formed after the Brexit referendum to campaign to keep the rights of British nationals in Italy and Italians in the UK, said in a statement.
Unlike France, Germany, the Netherlands and some other EU nations, Italy has not passed any legislation to accommodate resident Brits in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“There is legislation in place in the UK giving all the EU residents the right to become legally resident in the event of a no deal, protecting their right to health care, to work. When is the Italian government going to offer us this basic protection? Our situation is becoming intolerable,” adds Delia Dumaresq, a committee member of British in Italy.
“Keeping people in limbo for 900 days is abuse,” Denise Abel, an Italian resident in the central Italian region of Umbria, told The Local.
“The minute we lose our legal residence as EU citizens, we become illegal residents. There is no default position – unless the Italian government or the EU legislate to give us the protection of legal residence,” adds Dumaresq.
Some of British in Italy's “critical” concerns include:
- Renewing a carta d’identità (ID card) and being told that you are no longer entitled as you need a visa as an 'extracomunitario' (non-EU citizen).
- Being stopped by the carabinieri (a branch of the police) driving with what has become an invalid car insurance.
- Producing a Tessera Sanitaria (health card) to get medical treatment and being told it is no longer valid.
- Seeking to renew a work contract, only to be told it cannot be done without a visa or permesso di soggiorno (residence permit for non-EU citizens).
- Turning up at school as a teacher to be told you cannot continue because you are no longer legally resident as an EU citizen.
“Unless the Italian government steps up to the plate very quickly, the no-deal scenario means I will be unable to work legally from March 30th, 2019. How am I to feed my family?” Gareth, another British in Italy committee member, says in the campaign group's December 12th statement.
Italian foreign office officials have recently hinted that they are keen to ring-fence, or at least legally protect, the rights of Brits living in Italy.
“The work that has been done on citizenship rights will not be lost even if there is no agreement,” Marco Peronaci, Italy's Brexit secretary, said at a meeting with British nationals on November 26th in Rome.
If you are a Brit in Italy and you share similar concerns, British in Italy will be holding an emergency meeting in Rome on December 14th from 4pm-6pm at the All Saints & Anglican Church, Via del Babuino 153, 00187, Rome. Those wishing to attend are invited to RSVP (ASAP!) by emailing .
Among other key topics relevant to Brits in Italy, the meeting will cover what will happen to the rights of Brits if the Withdrawal Agreement is approved; but also if it is rejected and a no-deal Brexit is the outcome.The meeting will also look at how Italy's immigration decree will affect citizenship applications by Brits in Italy.
“The Friday meeting is of huge importance to the British community here – to get people actively talking to their local sindici [mayors], assessori [councillors], journalists etc. We need to push the Italian government to bring forward urgent legislation to give us legal status on March 30th, 2019,” Delia Dumaresq told The Local.
READ MORE: A Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy