OPINION: Wasn’t parliamentary sovereignty and democracy what Brexit was supposed to be about?

Ever since our long and exhausting Brexit journey started, the road has been full of twists, turns, bumps and the odd diversion, writes Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain.

OPINION: Wasn’t parliamentary sovereignty and democracy what Brexit was supposed to be about?
Placards at the march on Westminster on Saturday. Photos: AFP

The British public has grown tired of the journey and it’s understandable that an oft-heard cry is “are we nearly there yet?”

The short answer is: “Not even close.”

Even if we left the EU at the end of October, the Brexit journey would be only just beginning. Anyone who believes that Brexit would be over at that point would be severely disappointed. Negotiations over any future trading relationship with the EU would take several years to complete. Not forgetting the much-hyped deals to be made with the rest of the world. Thus far, the UK isn’t doing so well on that front, either!

Since becoming prime minister, Boris has stated on many occasions that Britain is leaving on October 31st, “do or die”. Theresa May made similar claims about the earlier Brexit dates of March 29th and April 12th. She said it over 100 times, in fact. It appears that constant repetition doesn’t make something come true!

If we required proof that Johnson is prepared to act on his promise to do anything necessary to force through Brexit, we had it in spades last week. The possible suspension of parliament had already been discussed, but Johnson acted on it. He gained permission from the Queen to prorogue parliament for five weeks – an unusually long period – with the unconvincing justification that it’s to deliver his “exciting” new legislative policies. Except for Brexiters, few people were convinced. His unprecedented action was immediately greeted with outrage and condemnation from all opposition parties, some rebel Conservative MPs and the British public.

Many people suspect that Johnson’s true motive is to prevent MPs from thwarting his Brexit plans. The day before Johnson’s announcement, opposition parties held cross-party talks to determine the best way forward. Having considered the nuclear option of calling a vote of no-confidence, they determined that the best option was a legal challenge, with a vote of no-confidence as a back-up plan. The idea was to bring forward legislation forcing the government to seek an extension, to avoid leaving the EU without a deal. Following Johnson’s latest actions, the vote of no confidence is likely to reappear on the table.

The public reacted immediately to Johnson’s prorogation plan. Within hours, crowds of people had gathered throughout Britain to protest, with the largest crowd gathering in Westminster. A petition calling for parliament “not to be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled” collected over one million signatures in the first 24 hours alone. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protestors gathered in 34 different cities across the UK, to demand that parliament #StopTheCoup.

Photo from the march: AFP

The public also responded to requests on social media to lobby MPs. Bremain in Spain members were very active on this front. Many MPs immediately replied, stating that they’d never, in their parliamentary roles, received so much correspondence in a single day. The response was almost universal condemnation of Johnson’s prorogation plan, a commitment to support any action to prevent it, and to prevent a no-deal. Johnson’s plan to silence parliament seems to have been effective at galvanising support against him and ensuring a speedier rebellion than was previously anticipated.

Another tactic against Johnson – a legal action from 70 MPs and peers – was due to be heard in the Edinburgh court on September 6th. Led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry and QC Jolyon Maugham, the challenge aimed to prevent the prime minister from proroguing parliament. Maugham described Johnson’s plan as “the act of a dictator” and added “we cannot allow it”. When it became apparent that Boris had already acted, a hearing in the Outer House of the Court of Session was expedited. The Court of Session has now agreed to advance the full hearing to Tuesday 3 September and may ask Johnson to submit a signed affidavit or even appear in court.

The prime minister insists that he has the support of the country and a clear mandate to deliver his Brexit plan. This is a blatant lie. No-deal was barely discussed pre-referendum, so any claims that the public voted for this model of Brexit are false. Furthermore, the catastrophic nature of a no-deal Brexit was unknown in 2016, so any support for this model would have been an ill-informed choice. Even now, Brexiters discredit the warnings of economic disaster as being false, despite these warnings coming from the government’s own detailed analyses.

Nobody voted for a no-deal Brexit. Nobody voted to be poorer or to have their medical and food supplies threatened. Nobody voted to lose their job or their rights. Nobody voted to shut down parliament at this most crucial time in British politics.

Regardless of how you voted in the referendum, or in the last election, don’t let the government tell you what you voted for. It’s likely that, soon, those of us who still have our voting rights will have another say. Make sure you’re ready to take back control and restore sovereignty to parliament, not to the prime minister. After all, wasn’t parliamentary sovereignty and democracy what Brexit was supposed to be about?

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain


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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.”