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BREXIT

Britain and EU reach new Brexit deal

The UK and EU announced on Thursday morning that they have agreed on a new deal for Britain's exit from the EU and both sides hope to ratify that deal by October 31st.

Britain and EU reach new Brexit deal
Jean-Claude Juncker and Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described the deal as a “fair and balanced agreement for the EU and UK” while British prime minister Boris Johnson described it as a “great new deal”.

 

The agreement follows days of tense last-minute negotiations focusing on arrangements for Northern Ireland and the Irish border. 

While Britain's exit from the EU on October 31st with a deal now looks a lot more likely there are still some hurdles to overcome – the European Council has to endorse the deal and British MPs have to approve it, which proved the sticking point for previous Prime Minister Theresa May.

The British parliament is expected to sit on Saturday when MPs will debate the bill. The House of Commons has three times refused to pass Theresa May's largely similar deal, and Boris Johnson's Conservative party does not have a parliamentary majority.

However he is hoping that changes to the deal around the contentious issue of the Irish backstop will be enough to persuade a majority of MPs to back the deal. He has apparently told European leaders that he is “optimistic” that he will be able to get the deal passed by parliament.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland will lose its veto on whether the new arrangements in Ireland will come in to force.

 

The new deal has changes to the Irish border arrangements and VAT, but on questions of citizens rights for UK nationals living in Europe it is largely the same as Theresa May's deal.

A deal would also mean a transition period until at least December 31st 2020, during which all current rights such as freedom of movement would continue.

The transition period was originally intended as a two-year period during which the UK could begin negotiations on future deals, however repeated Brexit delays means that the current transition period is 14 months.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has today said that it would be possible to extend this until October 2021 if both parties agree.

He told a press conference that “citizens have always been, and will remain, the EU’s priority”.

Uncertainty for them has been going on for too long, he added.

French president Emmanuel Macron, speaking as he arrived in Brussels for the European Council meeting, said he was “optimistic” about the deal.

He told reporters: “This agreement makes it possible, I believe, to address the political and technical concerns that were both our own and those of the British.

“We will meet this afternoon. There will then be elements of ratification to be taken to the British and European Parliaments, and it is at that time that this agreement can be finalised. But at this stage we can only be satisfied.”

He refused to be drawn on the likelihood of the deal passing through the British parliament.

 

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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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