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BREXIT

‘Brexit terms must be respected’: EU’s Barnier sends message to Boris Johnson

The Brexit terms that Britain agreed to before formally exiting the European Union "must be respected," chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Monday, after reports that London might seek legislation to override key parts of the deal.

'Brexit terms must be respected': EU's Barnier sends message to Boris Johnson
Michel Barnier arrives at 10 Downing Street for Brexit talks. AFP

“Everything that has been signed must be respected,” Barnier told France Inter radio, in response to a Financial Times report claiming British Premier Boris Johnson wanted to revise agreements on Northern Ireland and state aid.

Barnier said he would discuss the report with his British counterpart David Frost during an eighth round of negotiations on a future trade deal this week.

“The important thing for me is what the prime minister says and does, and what the British government itself says and does,” he said.

Regarding Northern Ireland, Barnier insisted that under the withdrawal deal it will continue to apply the EU's single market rules, intended to avoid a “hard border” with Ireland but which would effectively create a trade border in the Irish Sea.

The move is meant to avoid reviving sectarian tensions between Ireland and Northern Ireland that were largely calmed by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

“No land border is the pre-requisite for peace since the end of the conflict… and it's the pre-requisite for a united and coherent economy for the entire island, and also to respect the single market,” Barnier said.

Talk of changing the Withdrawal Agreement has naturally prompted concerns among Britons in Europe and the citizens rights groups.

 

Johnson said Sunday that a trade deal with the EU must be reached by October 15, in order for it to be in force by the end of this year.

“If we can't agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us,” he said in a statement released by his office.

Britain formally left the 27-member bloc on January 31, but remains bound by EU rules while it tries to thrash out new terms of its relationship.

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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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