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OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Brexit deal does not deliver on the rights of Britons in Europe

While the UK Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that her final draft Brexit deal delivers on the referendum vote, groups representing the hundreds of thousands of Britons living across the EU say she had failed to deliver on their rights.

OPINION: Brexit deal does not deliver on the rights of Britons in Europe
Photo: AFP

Theresa May told parliament and members of her government on Wednesday that the Brexit deal agreed with Brussels was the best possible agreement for the UK to leave the EU and one that delivers on the result of the referendum in 2016.

Her deal was however attacked by both leavers and remainers and it remains highly doubtful that the agreement would win the necessary support in her cabinet and then the British parliament before it can be signed and sealed.

The agreement certainly hasn't won any support among campaign groups representing the 1.2 million British citizens living across the EU.

“Claims by the British government that 'they have delivered on citizens' rights' are entirely false,” Brian Robinson from the Brexpats Hear our Voice campaign group told The Local.
 
“The draft agreement only touches upon some treaty rights, and ignores the rest.”
 
The citizens' rights aspect of the bill was agreed back in March and the EU Commission confirmed to The Local on Wednesday that nothing has changed since then.
 
“The citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement was agreed in full back in March,” the spokesman said.
 
That means that while Brits will be allowed to stay, work and receive healthcare in the EU countries where they live they will be lose their current right to onward freedom of movement – in other words the right to move to another EU country.
 
 
'More holes than cheese': A recap of what Theresa May's Brexit deal means for Brits in Europe

That means that while Brits will be allowed to stay, work and receive healthcare in the EU countries where they live they will be lose their current right to onward freedom of movement – in other words the right to move to another EU country.

This is a big deal for many people whose livelihoods depend on being able to work in an EU country other than their country of residence.

“Onward freedom of movement has not yet been agreed, and many UK citizens in the EU rely on this for their livelihood,” said Robinson.
 
The umbrella group British in Europe have long called for onward freedom of movement to be guaranteed for Brits in the EU and while they have won support in the European Parliament, their requests have fallen on deaf ears among those negotiating the deal in Brussels and London.

British in Europe's chair Jane Golding told The Local: “If this draft agreement is agreed and becomes legally binding then it will only confirm the current rights we have in one country.

“But most of us moved on the assumption that those rights were valid across the EU27. Some of us have lived in several countries.”

Kalba Meadows from the Remain in France Together group said even if freedom of movement is guaranteed at a later date it would be too late for many Brits in Europe.

“If the crucial issue of free movement will be omitted it will become the subject of the 'future relationship' negotiations along with a million and one other issues – and too late to avoid serious disruption to the lives of many Brits in Europe,” she told The Local.

While freedom of movement was the main omission from the Brexit deal, campaigners were also unhappy about other rights that were not included in the March agreement.

They cover matters such as the right to provide cross-border services as self-employed people, recognition of some professional qualifications and the right to be joined by a future spouse or partner who you were not in a relationship with before the end of the transition period.

One of the major downsides of the deal is that EU countries may adopt a “constitutive system” meaning Brits would have to apply and prove their status in a country rather than just being granted it. The worry is that some expats who have been settled in a country for a years won't meet the criteria around minimum income.

But perhaps the main bone of contention campaigners have with the Brexit deal is that citizens rights have not been ring-fenced, meaning if Theresa May's much criticized bill fails to get through and the UK lurches towards a no-deal then suddenly Brits in Europe lose everything.

“We are stuck with the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” said British in Europe's Jane Golding.

Remain in France Together's Kalba Meadows stressed that there was a long way to go before Brits in Europe and EU citizens in the UK can rest easy.

“There's no doubt that for citizens' rights a deal is better than no deal, so there are five million people today with their hearts in their mouths. But even if the deal is accepted by the cabinet there's a long way to go … it still has to get though the UK and European parliaments, so nobody can start counting chickens just yet,” she said.

“So we wait and we hope.”

The hope of all these groups is that Theresa May relents and accepts the growing demand for a “people's vote” on the final deal that would include an option to remain in the EU.

Member comments

  1. For all its bluster, it’s the EU that is insisting on restricting Brit citizens rights in Europe. It is for them to allow onward movement. The equivalent restriction in the Uk would, for example, be if EU citizens in the UK were restricted to the town, city or country of their current residence within the UK.

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For members

VISAS

How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

If you're a non-EU UK resident or a British citizen who wants to move to Italy post-Brexit, the elective residency visa is one of the options available to you. Here's how to apply from the UK.

How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

Since Brexit was finalised at the start of 2021, British nationals who want to relocate to Italy have been in the same boat as all other extra-EU citizens, requiring a visa to make the move.

For those who receive a passive income and don’t need to work, the elective residency/residence visa (ERV) is a popular choice – though the application process can be confusing.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

A recent survey conducted by the Local on the experiences of British citizens moving to Italy post-Brexit found that a number of respondents – mostly retirees – had applied or attempted to apply for this visa.

However many described the process as being far more onerous, complex and stressful than they had anticipated.

One couple who were on their second attempt strongly advised retaining a lawyer, as they found that the information provided by the Italian authorities was not clear or detailed enough to allow for a successful application.

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

The Local spoke to three experts about how to maximise your chances of success when applying for the ERV.

Most of the advice given was relevant to anyone intending to apply for the ERV, but some related specifically to the experience of people applying from the UK; we’ve compiled that information here.

Because where you’re applying from – rather than your nationality – is the main thing that matters for this application process, this guidance applies equally to non-British citizens who are legally resident in the UK.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re applying for the ERV as a British resident.

Going through an agency

If you want to apply for an ERV from the UK, you’ll likely need to go through VFS Global, an outsourcing agency that handles visa applications for the UK’s Italian consulates.

This is different to how the application process works for people in countries like the US, Canada, or Australia, who usually need to apply directly to the Italian consulate closest to where they are legally resident.

Most UK applicants, by contrast, deal exclusively with VFS Global, whose representatives conduct the appointment, review the documentation and deliver the application to the consulate on their behalf.

Some of the Local’s readers have said they felt penalised by the requirement to go through a third party middleman, as it blocks them from having direct contact with anyone with at the consulate.

But Nick Metta from Studio Legale Metta says going through an agency can actually provide an advantage, as their representatives tend to be well-versed in all the ERV requirements. “Basically they can do a pre-check, and usually that will avoid you the denial letter,” he says.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In the absence of an agency, he says, the consular staff member tasked with conducting ERV meetings is often “a front office handler who in most cases is not very well-versed in Italian regulations or requirements,” – some of whom have provided his clients with incorrect information in the past.

Elze Obrikyte from Giambrone & Partners, who regularly assists UK clients with ERV applications, says that the involvement of an agency also means UK applicants have more flexibility about where – and therefore when – they can book an appointment.

For example, while US applicants have to wait for a slot at their nearest consulate to open up, someone in London has the option to book an appointment at VFS’s application centre in, e.g., Edinburgh, potentially fast-tracking the process for those who are keen to get started.

READ ALSO: EU Blue Card: Who can get one in Italy and how do you apply?

What’s required

VFS Global’s checklist says applicants for the ERV in the UK should have:

    • A completed application form, which can be obtained from your consulate.
    • Two recent passport photos.
    • A passport that is valid until at least 90 days after the requested ERV would expire, plus two copies of the front page and of all Schengen visas issued in the past three years.
    • For non-British citizens, a UK residence permit.
    • A cover letter explaining why you intend to move to Italy.
    • Detailed documentation showing “substantial and stable private income”, including official letters from the banks or financial institutions listed (this must be passive income, as ERV recipients are not allowed to work once they arrive in Italy). 
    • Your last two years of income tax returns.
    • A registered ownership deed or rental lease agreement for property in Italy.
    • A reservation for a one-way ticket to Italy.
    • A marriage certificate for those applying as a married couple, and/or a birth certificate showing both parents’ names for dependent minors.

Applying for an ERV to move from the UK to Italy requires a substantial amount of paperwork.

Applying for an ERV to move from the UK to Italy requires a substantial amount of paperwork. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Advice for UK applicants

Giuditta Petreni, who assists clients with ERV applications at Mazzeschi Legal Counsels, says she believes the ERV process has been getting tougher for UK-based applicants in recent years.

Obrikyte says she thinks consulates have become more strict in general over the past decade, but has observed that British applicants tend to struggle more with the application process than their North American counterparts.

“I see that most of them tend to be not well prepared for this type of application, while American and Canadian citizens, they’ve been living in this situation for years, so they prepare better,” she says.

READ ALSO: From visas to language: What Americans can expect when retiring in Italy

British applicants, by contrast, “tend to submit the application without actually putting a lot of effort in and then they are surprised when the application is rejected.”

Obrikyte says one key area where applicants often fall down is the cover letter explaining why they want to move to Italy.

In her experience, ‘pre-rejections’ – provisional refusals that give applicants the opportunity to fix an unsatisfactory aspect of their application before the final decision is made – are often issued on the basis of this letter alone.

She says that when asked to write a motivation letter, her clients will often write about loving the food or the weather. “This is not enough,” says Obrikyte.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

“You must really convince them that, for example, you have purchased a property, you have already been spending a lot of time in Italy, and you are integrated in that neighbourhood.”

“Italian language is not a requirement for this visa, but of course if you mention that you are studying Italian or you know Italian, which helps you to integrate better, this is also an advantage for your application.”

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