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BREXIT

EU’s likely next boss ‘ready’ to back another Brexit delay if needed

European Commission president nominee Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday she would support delaying Britain's exit from the EU beyond an October 31 deadline if necessary.

EU's likely next boss 'ready' to back another Brexit delay if needed

Even if the German defence minister's Brussels appointment is confirmed later Tuesday, she would not take office until November 1, after the Brexit cut-off, but her view may carry weight.

“I stand ready for further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason,” von der Leyen told a European Parliament ahead of a vote on her candidacy.

Von der Leyen's remarks triggered howls of derision from pro-Brexit members of the European Parliament, as said sought to tackle key areas of uncertainty caused by Britain's shock June 2016 vote to leave the bloc.

She stressed, for example, the importance of preserving the rights of citizens on both sides of the divide and maintaining peace on the island of Ireland: “These two priorities are mine too.”

Von der Leyen faced the European Parliament on Tuesday ahead of a knife-edge secret vote to confirm 
her in Brussels' top job.

The 60-year-old conservative will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission if she secures a majority in the Strasbourg assembly.

If she fails — and the ballot could be close — then Europe faces a summer of institutional infighting between parliament and the 28 EU leaders.

And if her victory is close or is secured only thanks to eurosceptic members, her position will be weakened even before she takes over as the commission's first female leader in November.

She has had barely two weeks to make her case since the leaders declared her the nominee after a tense three-day summit, casting aside candidates backed by parliament.

But von der Leyen has responded with a series of written promises to the main centre-right EPP, socialist S&D and liberal Renew Europe blocs that she hopes will get her the necessary 374 votes.

And on Tuesday, she was broadly well received by sceptical lawmakers when she tried to reassure them of her environmental credentials and that she would build an inclusive five-year programme.

“I will put forward a green deal for Europe in my first 100 days in office. I will put forward the first ever European climate law which will set the 2050 target in law,” she said.

Member comments

  1. But there is no reason, at the moment, to delay any further. Until the EU comes to its senses and accepts that the UK must return to being a sovereign country then any deal such as PM May’s, is a myth and therefore why delay. Voted down three times in the UK parliament the deal is dead.

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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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