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BREXIT

OPINION: This is the last chance to show Brits in the EU matter more than Cheddar cheese

While many Britons living throughout the EU may have felt relief that a cliff-edge exit from Europe was avoided this week, most lament the fact the "indecision and uncertainty" will be prolonged unless rights are ring-fenced, say the groups British in Europe and Brexpats Hear Our Voice in these letters.

OPINION: This is the last chance to show Brits in the EU matter more than Cheddar cheese
Photo: Axel Scheffler for British in Europe

British in Europe:



Citizens’ rights organisations British in Europe and the3million, who represent the five million people most directly affected by Brexit, demand an immediate end to crippling legal uncertainty in the wake of an agreed extension to the Brexit process until 31 October.
 
While the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens’ rights has been gathering dust for over a year all 28 EU member states are busy making their own, widely differing preparations on how to treat the five million people who have crossed the Channel to live in another EU country.
 
These five million people demand an urgent explanation as to why EEA EFTA  and Swiss citizens already have security about their rights, but they do not. They also plead with the EU to not waste the hard work that went into agreeing citizens’ rights and uphold them even in case of no deal.

Jane Golding, Co-Chair of British in Europe – which represents 1.3mn Britishcitizens living on the continent – said: “This may be the last chance before the European elections to show the five million people who used their free movement rights in good faith that they matter more than fish carcasses or Cheddar cheese.

“As almost a third of only 17 million Europeans who currently use their free movement rights, what message does it send for the future if the EU fails to protect their rights in this unprecedented situation? 

“We need a binding commitment now from both sides that rescuing the hard won citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal agreement will be the contingency, instead of the current contingency plans providing for 28 separate unilateral solutions without international treaty protection.”

It is unlikely that any post-no-deal-Brexit agreement on citizens' rights would have the same scope and rights as the Citizens' Rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement  – and it could take years to negotiate.
 
The current EU no-deal contingency plans for British citizens in the EU amount to little more than calling on Member States to ‘be generous’. This approach also leaves the 3,6 million EU citizens in the UK at the mercy of the UK government, which has already announced that their rights will be cut in a no-deal scenario.

Without the protection of an international treaty, future Britishgovernments will be free to reduce these rights even further. In addition, the campaign groups argue that dealing with areas like healthcare, pensions and social security will require a coordinated approach at EU-UK level. 

For more information on British in Europe CLICK HERE.

Brexpats Hear our Voice:

We fully endorse British in Europe and the3million’s demand today for “an immediate end to the crippling legal uncertainty in the wake of an agreed extension to… …31 October 2019”.

Business aside, there needs to be more awareness of how this affects people. Every week has been bringing us new worries since our lives were turned upside down, astonishingly close to three years ago.

This week of no deal?, short extension?, long extension?… has been one of the worst. How much more of hanging over the abyss, living with uncertainty do they think people can take? 

Our members are in countries that span from Spain to Finland, France to Bulgaria, Ireland to Estonia, Greece to the Netherlands… Stereotypes abound but we are more likely to gravitate to where the work is than to the bowling club or the beach, as almost 80% of UKinEU are of working age or younger.

Our members are from all backgrounds, perhaps employed or self-employed; families with young children or carers for older relatives; economically comfortable or economically challenged… in fact, all manner of situations, rather like “real people”! Many of us care very much about the UK and our family and loved ones there.

But the referendum set us and all EUinUK citizens apart. We are particularly concerned for the most vulnerable amongst us. By definition, that must include many of the 3 million+ EU citizens for whom it is very hard to be impervious to Theresa May’s ever hostile environment.

For many of our members the extension offers relief we are still in the EU, and hope but for others it is an even darker place or feelings are mixed.

Michael, Germany: “The cause of Remain is still alive…” Sue, France: “More time for more indecision and uncertainty…” Caomhin, Spain: “I like it because we haven’t left… I don’t like it because of the insecurity…” Mike, Italy: “Nothing has changed…” Christine, Spain: “Another six months of living on a knife’s edge…” Neal, Romania: “Underwhelmed…” Arthur, Hungary: “I am quite upbeat about it”. Lesley, France: “Good news and bad news all at the same time”. Linda, Belgium: “… I’m really sick of this (and I mean sick in all senses of the word – ask my doctor!)…” Chris, France: “My fear is that much of the damage to our country has already been done…”

No deal has been excused from the table this week so our battle for ring-fencing must go on. Or even better, revoke article 50 forthwith; it was after all, a highly dubious referendum.

For more information on Brexpats Hear Our Voice CLICK HERE.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

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