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Brexit: Is the British government really doing enough to support Britons in Europe?

Through its embassies the British government has been holding outreach meetings with its citizens across the EU. But is it enough? Campaigners from Spain, France, Germany and Italy explain the pros and cons of the efforts of the British representatives to help their citizens in these troubled times.

Brexit: Is the British government really doing enough to support Britons in Europe?

Representatives from the British in Europe group were invited this week to give evidence to a parliamentary committee in London about the impact of Brexit and in particularl how a no-deal would affect Brits throughout the EU.

One of the things the representatives of British in Europe were asked about was the efforts by the UK government to inform citizens living in the EU of their rights and what they need to do to prepare for Brexit.

Embassies have been holding scores of outreach meetings across Germany, Spain, Italy, France and other countries to hear their concerns.

But have they been helpful? Is it enough? 

Here's what the British in Europe representatives had to say.

Germany

Jane Golding, British in Europe's co-chair who is based in Germany said: “There have been a lot of events, which is good. I would say that some of them, until recently, focused too much on the withdrawal agreement and not enough on no-deal contingency.

“I think now there has been more focus from the embassy side on no-deal contingency. What they have done with us and with German authorities, for example in Berlin, in the last few months, is to organise info fairs.

“There is a very short presentation at the beginning, rather than a long speech about what the current Government position is, and people can go to stands where they can actually talk to German officials about issues like residency, insurance, health insurance, employment, professional qualifications and all those different areas.

“I must say that I think that our members in Germany have appreciated that approach. That sort of event is needed more and more—more co-operation with the authorities in-country and more focus on being able to answer people’s individual questions when they come along to an event.”

France

British in Europe's Kalba Meadows said: “The situation in France is not quite as developed as the situation in Germany. We have a very different population.

“We are a rural population. British citizens in France are spread over a really wide area, with some living an hour or two hours from a big centre of population. That means that events that have been arranged don’t necessarily have a very large catchment area for people.

“One of the big problems has been that they have often been arranged at very short notice—sometimes a week or 10 days—and they have often been arranged during working hours. We have noticed that the numbers of people attending have been decreasing.

“They do not have terribly good feedback, because people say to us that they are not really addressing the issues. Therefore, people do not go.

“Another problem is that they are only advertised via social media— Facebook particularly—and you are simply not going to reach all British people living in France via social media. Of course, that leads on to a whole big question about communication and outreach. We do not have the same very positive report that Germany has. It could do better.”

The British in Europe campaign group is appealing for financial donations to help with its work. You can find out more information and donate HERE.

Spain

British in Europe's John Richards, who lives in Spain said: “In Spain, the British embassy has made a lot of effort in respect of outreach, because there is quite a large population.

“Residents also use the filter of our associations.

“There are associations on the coast and mine, EuroCitizens, is basically concentrated on Madrid; we have all had a lot of interaction with both the British authorities, in the form of the embassy, and the Spanish authorities.

“There is a way that people can get information. We all have meetings of our respective organisations, which are well attended from time to time and less so on other occasions. 

“It is not that people are living completely in the dark, but of course things can always be better. People are always concerned about their situation. There is an element of uncertainty that just cannot be explained however much outreach you have.”

Italy

Jeremy Morgan, from British in Italy said: “We have had a lot of outreach meetings. Again, it is a population that is difficult to reach because it is partly rural and partly urban, but spread all over a very long country, so if you get 30 or 40 people at a meeting you have really done quite well. 

“One of the problems was that, certainly in the early days, there was a great tendency to sell the party line. For example, I remember the ambassador giving a talk about a week before the second of the votes in the House of Commons on the withdrawal agreement, when it was fairly clear from the press that it was highly unlikely to be passed, being confident that it was all going to go through. That kind of thing is not helpful, because people are realistic. I would say there has been a great improvement over the past year, with much more focused attention on rights.

“By and large, if you want to find out what your rights are in Italy, you are better off looking at a British in Italy website, because we can be franker and clearer, or we can express doubts, whereas, because of the desire of the Government to maintain a relationship with the Italian Government, they will perhaps be rather more cautious in their wording.

“For example, there is a “Living in” guide for each country in the EU27; it is organised by the FCO, but you get it through your local embassy website. That is all vetted by London, so it tends to be a bit bland at times and not helpful.”

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BREXIT

‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.

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