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Boris Johnson threatens Italy with post-Brexit drop in prosecco sales

Italy's minister for economic development has criticized Boris Johnson for threatening Italy with a drop in prosecco sales if the UK leaves the EU single market.

Boris Johnson threatens Italy with post-Brexit drop in prosecco sales
Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images North America/AFP

“He basically said, ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market,’” Calenda told Bloomberg News. “I said, ‘no way.’ He said, ‘you’ll sell less prosecco.’

“I said, ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’ Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”

Calenda also criticized the chaotic nature of Brexit negotiations and urged the UK to “sit down and put its cards on the table”.

The debate comes amid fallout from a leaked memo claiming the UK government had “no clear strategy” over Brexit due to infighting within the Conservative party. Prime Minister Theresa May has said the memo, issued by consultancy firm Deloitte, was not authorized by the government.

Brits are the biggest consumers of Italian prosecco worldwide, having overtaken the US earlier this year, and before the UK referendum winemakers expressed fears that Brexit could cause problems for sales of the Italian fizz.

However, along with other EU countries, Italy has been clear that the UK will not receive special treatment in negotiations. This means that staying in the single market while putting restrictions on the free movement of people – one of the Leave campaigners' main promises – would not be possible.

Prime minister Matteo Renzi said that the UK should not expect more rights than other non-EU countries when it leaves the bloc.

Sergio Gilotta, a professor in business law at Bologna University, told The Local: “EU leaders may well be tempted to 'make an example' of Brexit, showing how hard life will be for those who choose to leave.”

“However, both parties have a strong interest in maintaining free trade. Significant trade restrictions with the UK – even the prospect thereof – may adversely affect our economy.”

The EU has said that no new relationship can be negotiated until the terms of Britain's exit have been agreed.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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