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EUROPEAN UNION

Letta has ‘no fear’ of British exit from EU

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said Wednesday that the European Union would be harmed if Britain withdrew as a result of a referendum on its membership.

Letta has 'no fear' of British exit from EU
Enrico Letta speaking during his visit to London. Photo: Chatham House

Speaking after talks in London with his British counterpart David Cameron, Letta said however that he believed that British voters would deliver a positive verdict on the EU.

"I am here to say that there is an Italian interest and a European interest that the UK stays on board the European process," Letta told a joint news conference with Cameron.

"It is important because without the UK on board, the EU would be worse. It would be less liberal, less innovative, less pro-open market, less pro-single market, less of a global player in the world."

Letta, who took office in April, said he believed Cameron's campaign for reform of the EU was possible, even including treaty change, so long as there was agreement across the 28-nation bloc.

"Of course we need reform, and we need reform of all the EU for the countries," the Italian said.

"We countries sharing the single currency need to have a more integrated euro area.

"I think it will be possible to have a common very near future in which we can have treaty changes for having a more flexible Europe in the interests of the UK, but also in the interests of Italy and the euro area countries."

The Italian premier added that he had "no fear" of a British referendum on EU membership.

Cameron has promised to repatriate some powers from Brussels and then hold a referendum in 2017, provided that he is returned to office after a general election the year after next.

"I personally have no fear about the referendum. It will be, for sure, something positive for Europe and the UK. I repeat, no fear of that," Letta said.

Cameron said he believed his campaign for EU reform was winning support, saying that he had a "positive response" from Germany, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.

"Not all of us will agree about every change that is necessary. But I think there is growing understanding that change is needed to make this organisation work better for all its countries," Cameron said.

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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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