Post-Brexit, less than a third of Italians want to leave EU

Ten days on from the shock results of the UK referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU, and euro-scepticism in Italy seems to be on the wane.

Post-Brexit, less than a third of Italians want to leave EU
After the UK vote, the majority of Italians want to stay in the EU. Photo: David Baxendale/Flickr

Just 28 percent of all Italians would now vote to leave the EU, according to a survey by UK pollsters Ipsos, carried out on behalf of Corriere della Sera in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Fourty-eight percent of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would definitely vote to remain in the event of an EU referendum in Italy, while 26 percent reported that they were either undecided or wouldn't vote.

The results provide a stark contrast to a separate Ipsos poll carried out earlier this year, in which almost half of all Italians said they wanted to leave the EU.

In the earlier poll, 58 percent of people also said they were in favour of Italy holding a referendum on its EU membership, but this figure fell to 44 percent following Britain's shock decision.

The results point to a softening of the euroskeptic attitudes which were on the rise in Italy in the build up to the referendum – perhaps brought on by the political and economic chaos the British vote triggered.

The Brexit vote has sent global financial markets into meltdown, caused the UK Prime Minister David Cameron to resign and exposed huge fractures in the British political landscape, which show no signs of being resolved anytime soon.

Yet in spite of the chaos in the UK, more than three quarters of all respondents were of the opinion the Brexit will not be felt too harshly in Italy.

An impressive 49 percent of all respondents said they thought the effects of the vote would be “negative but not dramatic”, while 39 percent of people felt “little or nothing” would change.

However, even though most people thought the effects would be minimal, only six percent of all respondents thought things would change for the better following a British exit.

Among the optimists are Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has spoken of hopes for the future, calling Brexit “a great opportunity” for the EU.

Speaking to reporters last week, Renzi said it could bring about “more growth and more investment, less austerity and less bureaucracy – things we have been proposing for the past two years”. 

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.