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EUROPEAN UNION

REMINDER: What the Brexit deal means for Brits in Italy

The UK's election result has moved Brexit a step closer, so here's reminder of what exactly the Withdrawal Agreement means for British residents in Italy.

REMINDER: What the Brexit deal means for Brits in Italy
Anti-Brexit protesters in Rome, 2017. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

It's been so long since the British parliament last debated (and rejected) a possible Wiithdrawal Agreement that many people will have forgotten exactly what it entails.

But after the Conservatives won a landslide victory in the UK's general election, their Brexit deal is back on the table and could finally pass by the proposed deadline of January 31st.

While the latest deal hasn't yet been given the green light by the British parliament, it's important to remember that the Citizens' Rights part of the deal – the 50-odd page section that formed Part Two of the Withdrawal Agreement – remains unchanged from when it was thrashed out a year ago.

READ ALSO: How will Brexit affect you in Italy? Q&A with the British ambassador

The good news is that the transition period, which basically keeps relations between the EU and the UK as they are now, will immediately kick in when the UK leaves and run until December 2020, unless it is extended.

So people who want to move to an EU country but have not made the move yet can come here on the same terms as before until the end of December 2020. And Brits who want to move from one EU country to another can also do so as they would have done if they were EU citizens until the end of 2020.

This contrasts with a no-deal scenario when all such rights would end on Brexit Day. 

READ ALSO:

Here's a quick recap of what the Brexit deal will mean for British residents in Italy (though it's worth noting that at the time campaigners from British in Europe described the Withdrawal Agreement as having “more holes than a piece of French Emmental” cheese).

  • If you are legally resident in an EU country then you will have the right to stay, albeit you will have to apply to authorities in order to secure this status.
  • The right to stay is not only guaranteed for those already living in the EU on Brexit day, but also those who come to the EU before the end of the transition period, which currently is 31st December 2020 – though there is a chance that the transition period could be extended even further. It was initially intended as a 21-month window in which the UK could organise bilateral deals or with the EU as a whole, but repeated Brexit delays mean it is now just over a year.
  • Under the Withdrawal Agreement, Brits will only lose those rights if they spend five continuous years away from the EU country they are living in.
  • The current EU laws on the right of residence will apply, meaning Brits in the EU are not obliged to meet any conditions for the first three months of their stay, but after that they must be working or self-employed, self-sufficient or a student. Alternatively they can be a family member of someone who meets these conditions.
  • Aggregation of social security contributions is agreed.
  • After five years of meeting these conditions then you will earn the right to stay permanently. Anyone with less than five years' residence under their belts by the end of the transition period will be allowed to stay on under the same conditions until they can claim permanent residency. 
  • Britons in the EU will enjoy the continued right to reciprocal healthcare. So those pensioners who have cover under the S1 scheme or will be eligible for one when they retire will continue to have their healthcare funded by the UK. For British workers in EU countries who pay into the national health scheme then, the rules will remain as they are now. 
  • EHIC health cards will also continue to cover travel across the EU during the transition period. What happens with them afterwards would be part of any future deals between Britain and EU countries.
  • Pensions will be uprated – meaning your UK state pension will be increased annually as it has been for those living in the UK or in the EU up to now – and this continues for your lifetime.
  • Disability benefits will also be “exported” as they are now.
  • Frontier workers who live in one country and work in another will have the right to continue to work in each country.
  • Close family members including spouses, civil partners and dependent children will be able to join you living in an EU country if you are legally resident. British in Europe points out that: “This will apply for the whole of your lifetime. If you have children after the effective date they also are protected under the withdrawal agreement if you and the other parent are also protected or a national of the country you live in.”
  • The issue of qualifications being recognised in a country under a Brexit deal is one of the more confusing aspects of the Citizens Rights part of the WA. British in Europe sum it up by saying: “There is some agreement on recognition of professional qualifications – if you have an individual recognition decision re your qualification including through automatic recognition e.g. doctors, architects, your qualification will continue to be recognised but only in the country where the decision was issued.”

Citizens rights group British in Europe said of the deal when Theresa May first agreed it: “It's reasonable to say that for those who are happily settled in their country of residence, work solely in that country, have retired there or are pre-retired, have no wish or need to move to or work or study in another EU country, fulfil all the requirements for exercising treaty rights (see here) and don't rely on professional qualifications, then your rights should be covered.”

But it's not all plain sailing.

  • Residency permits will still have to be applied for if EU countries, as they are expected to do, introduce a “constitutive system”. That means criminal checks will be carried out on applicants as well as checks to make sure they meet the requirements legal residence. That might be a problem if residents don't have the resources to prove they are self-sufficient. Application must be submitted within six months of the end of the transition period (which based on the current end date for the transition period of December 31st 2020 would be June 30th, 2021). And it's only an application, there is no guarantee that all applications will be accepted. After Brexit countries could also adopt a “declaratory system”, meaning Brits won't have to apply for residency permits, but will have a choice whether to do so.
     
  • Freedom of movement ends once the UK leaves the EU, so as well as affecting people who arrive after the end of the transition period it also means people cannot move between countries. So if you have residency sorted in Italy, you cannot then move to Spain for work – for example – without going through the Spanish immigration process.
  • The right to provide cross-border services as self-employed people.
  • As British in Europe states: “Some professional qualifications e.g. lawyers practising under their home titles and EU-wide licences and certificates are not covered, nor is recognition of qualifications outside the country of recognition/residence across the EU 27.”
  • If you hook up with a local while you're living in an EU country, don't assume that they will be able to live with you in the UK after the end of the transition period, even if you are married.

And of course, all this depends on Boris Johnson convincing MPs to back the deal he has negotiated.

For more information on the citizens' rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement, you can visit the British in Europe website.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

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