Johnson is to return to Downing Street with a large majority after Thursday’s vote, which was dominated by the question of how, when and if the UK's exit from the European Union should proceed.
The victorious prime minister insisted on Friday he would do everything to “get Brexit done” by January 31st. Brexit, he said, was now the “irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable will of the British people”.
For many Brits living in Europe, that was hard to comprehend. The Local's readers expressed sadness, shock and anger that the UK – or at least England and Wales – had effectively voted for Brexit once again.
“I feel like I’m total out of touch with the British people, I’m confused and can’t get my head around that landslide result,” said one Brit in Rome, Sarah Iball.
“Fighting for the UK to stay in the EU finished this morning, they will leave and now I’m not even sure that I can say it will be the worst thing for the UK anymore because I really don’t know anything and last night it proved it.”
Lia Borrutzu put it simply: “Dismayed; disgusted; disheartened; disenfranchised.”
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
“It's a devastating morning for all of us – we know that people are shocked and angry and hurting, as we are ourselves after three and a half years of campaigning,” Kalba Meadows from British in Europe told The Local.
“Yesterday there was still a glimmer of hope that we might remain in the EU; today that's gone – it's a true Friday the 13th. So today is a day to mourn and take stock.”
But Meadows and others who have been sticking up for the rights of Britons in Europe have stressed there is at least something positive to take from Boris Johnson's win. Much of the uncertainty that has blighted the lives of many and impacted the health of some will soon come to an end.
- Brits in Italy: It may be your last chance to apply for residency as EU citizens
- No, marrying an Italian won't save you from Brexit
- Healthcare after Brexit: What do Brits living in Italy need to do?
“There is some not-so-bad news too – our future rights will now be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and we no longer have the spectre of a no-deal Brexit that has kept us up at night for so long,” she said.
“It's not perfect – we lose our voting rights and our right to free movement for example – but it's lifetime protection of the majority of the rights we have now, and it'll stand even if the government doesn't reach a trade deal with the EU. And of course there will be no change for us until the end of the transition period.”
That transition period is due to end in December 2020 – just 12 months from now – though it could be extended, despite Boris Johnson having vowed otherwise.
Some UK citizens in Europe were grateful that they could now at least look forward. Many spoke of the steps they will now take to secure their future in the EU, even if meant having to overcome some bureaucratic and linguistic hurdles.
Mary Hartley said: “This is a very sad day for me, I honestly did not believe that it would come to this but that’s made my mind up to go for dual nationality.”
Not everyone is eligible for citizenship, however. And the uncertainty extends to the hundreds of thousands of Italians living in the UK, as dual national Teresa Lavender pointed out.
“My parents are Italian and have been living in England since 1964, that's 55 years,” she recounted. “My parents now have to apply for Settled Status after all these years, having paid all their taxes, national insurance etc. Their children were born here (me and my sister), they now even have grandchildren! The UK will lose out big time when we come out, thanks for nothing.”
Yet a few of our readers insisted that all the difficulties would be worth it. Mary Clare Granger described herself as “delighted” with the election result, “even though I have to find a way to stay in Italy”.
I'm British, currently living in Italy, where I'd like to stay. But I'd prefer that to be the Italian people's decision rather than an “entitlement”, so see no conflict in continuing to believe that Brexit is the right course for the UK and I am relieved that Corbyn has lost.
— The Ripe Mangoes (@theripemangoes) December 13, 2019
But for many Brits in the EU, the bigger questions over where to call home are far from settled.
“It’s obvious the British people want Brexit for one reason or another. Fine, have it, but what are Britain, Italy and the EU going to do with all us disenfranchised people?” asked Julie Blint.
“I beg them not to abandon us. I wish to belong, please make it easier for us to do that.”
What should Brits living in Italy do now?
Brits in Italy should make sure they are registered as a resident with their local anagrafe (registry office), change their driving licence and have qualifications recognized.
In the case of a deal, Brits who meet the criteria will also have until the end of the transition period (likely December 2020 but that could be extended) to apply for Italian citizenship, and they'll still be able to keep their British citizenship.