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BREXIT

New campaign urges Brits in Italy to get ready for Brexit

Brexit is still mired in uncertainty, but a new government campaign is urging Brits in Italy to prepare for it happening on October 31st.

New campaign urges Brits in Italy to get ready for Brexit
Brits are being urged to get their paperwork in order before October 31st. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

The UK government on Monday launched a major information campaign urging UK nationals living in and travelling to the EU to take steps to get ready for Brexit at the end of next month.

The campaign aims to inform more than a million UK nationals living in the EU – including over 29,000 Brits in Italy – about specific actions they need to take to secure their rights and services in their host country, including information on residency, healthcare, driving licences and passports.

It will also encourage people travelling to the EU to make all necessary preparations by checking passports, buying travel insurance and checking driving licenses and pet passports.

Find The Local's full Brexit coverage HERE

The campaign will use multiple channels, from Facebook posts to billboard posters in towns and cities across Europe, urging people to take action ahead of the October 31st deadline.

It comes even though negotiations are continuing over Brexit and no deal has been reached yet.

Regardless of what happens, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will leave the EU at the end of October.

This is what Brits have been urged to do in Italy:

  • Register as a resident at your local anagrafe (registry office).
  • Register for healthcare in Italy.
  • Exchange your UK driving licence for an Italian one.
  • Check your passport is valid for travel (if there's a no-deal Brexit, Brits must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe).

There is also some other actions that Brits can take, such as getting qualifications recognized and applying for permanent residency or citizenship.

READ ALSO: The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy


Photo: DepositPhotos

As The Local has reported, Italy has given assurances that the rights of British residents will be protected after Brexit, deal or no deal.

The previous Italian government issued a decree establishing a transition period until the end of 2020, during which time Brits can apply for new residency status: either a five-year permit for those who've lived in Italy for less than five years already, or a permanent residency permit for those who've been here five consecutive years or more.

Either permit will protect Brits' rights to work and access social benefits in Italy.

The precise procedures for requesting these permits have not yet been clarified. All British residents – unless they have dual Italian nationality – will have to register again as third-country (non-EU) nationals after Brexit, even those who already have a permanent residency permit as an EU citizen.

READ ALSO: 

In a press release, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are stepping up efforts to ensure Britons abroad are prepared for Brexit on October 31st.

“This campaign provides practical advice to the more than one million British people living in the EU, as well as British tourists and business travellers.”

The UK government recently announced up to £3 million in grant funding for charities and other voluntary organizations who can inform UK nationals about the need to register or apply for residency and to support them as they complete their applications.

The government also allocated an extra £300,000 to British Embassies and consulates across the EU to engage with UK nationals who may be more difficult to reach, such as people with disabilities, those living in remote areas or people who might need extra help to complete any paperwork in preparation for Brexit.

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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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