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Brexit countdown: What do Brits in Italy need to do before January 31st?

With the fourth - and likely final - Brexit date fast approaching, we look at what preparations people need to make for the UK's planned exit from the European Union.

Brexit countdown: What do Brits in Italy need to do before January 31st?
An anti-Brexit protester in Florence wears a mask with the stars of the EU flag. Photo: AFP
Why is January 31st important?
This is the date that is currently set as the exit day for the UK.
There have been Brexit deadline days before – three of them in fact – but due to a combination of an agreement with the EU and a parliamentary majority for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this one looks likely to actually happen.
It's still not a completely nailed-on certainty. Both the UK and European parliaments still need to formally approve the exit. But it does look likely that UK will exit on this date, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now has a strong parliamentary majority. Photo: AFP
So what happens on January 31st?

On that date, all UK citizens who do not have dual nationality will lose their EU citizenship.

In practical terms for British people who either live in Italy (full or part-time) or visit frequently, not a lot changes immediately.

If the UK goes out with a deal, a transition period begins and during that period British people will still be free to come to Italy to live and work.


In order to make sure that, whatever happens, you are in the best place to secure your rights, during the transition period Brits in Italy need to ensure that they are indeed a legal resident of Italy.

All EU/EEA nationals staying in Italy longer than three months should have applied for a certificato di residenza (residence certificate) at their local Anagrafe (registry office).

Your application must include evidence of employment, study or training in Italy, or proof that you have sufficient economic means to support yourself and any dependants.

Note that under the Withdrawal Agreement applicants will have until six months after the end of the transition period – so June 2021 as things stand to apply for residency.

Find full details of how to apply here.

If you arrive in Italy before the end of the implementation (also known as transition) period, you will be able to register as resident in Italy under the current rules, and will have your right to residence in Italy protected for as long as you remain resident.

Photo: Depositphotos

How long does the transition period last?

At the moment, the transition period ends on December 31st, 2020.

It was originally intended as a two-year period during which the UK and the EU could negotiate their future trading agreement, but repeated Brexit delays from the original date of March 29th 2019 have whittled it down to just 11 months.

There is an option to extend it up to a maximum of two years (so until December 31st 2022 at the latest) but that would need to be agreed by June 2020.

Trade experts say making a deal in just 11 months will be extremely difficult, but British PM Johnson is adamant that he will not ask for an extension (although it's worth pointing out that he also said that about the October 2019 Brexit date).

What happens at the end of the transition period?

At the end of the transition period, whenever it is, the UK then begins trading with the EU on new terms – either under the deal it has agreed during the transition period, or under WTO rules if it has not managed to make a deal.

The end of the transition period also marks the end of freedom of movement for UK nationals.

For people contemplating making the move to Italy, it may be best to do it as soon as possible.

It is still not entirely clear what the requirements will be for British people wanting to make the move after the end of the transition period, but it could be similar to the process that American and Australian citizens already have to go through.

They face much stricter requirements for residency than those offered to British people who are in the country by the end of the transition period, so if it is possible to make the move earlier that may well be the better option.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

What do I need to do now?

The transition period gives British people some breathing space to sort out their affairs but as Italian bureaucracy is not exactly famed for its speed, it would be best not leave everything until the last minute.

The framework of the Withdrawal Agreement gives anyone who is legally resident in Italy before the end of the transition period the right to stay. But of course, being legally resident in Italy is not the same as simply being in the country, so you'll need to have your paperwork in order.

The British Ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris, stated: “Before the UK leaves the EU, if you are a UK national living in Italy and you haven't yet registered officially as a resident, you should do so immediately. You may be able to apply for residency electronically if you have an electronic signature and a PEC address. Your comune's website should have more details as to how to do so.”

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy

“If you are still driving on a UK driving licence, you should exchange your licence for an Italian one before Exit day. If you do not, then you may be required to re-take your test after Exit day.”

“If your UK passport is nearing the end of its validity, you should renew it now. After the UK leaves the EU, your UK passport will need to have at least six months validity remaining to travel to EU countries.”

READ ALSO: How to swap your British driving licence for an Italian one

It will almost certainly be easier to arrange these things during the transition period than as a Third Country National afterwards.

However, as always with Brexit, there are still plenty of unanswered questions.

Most of the existing Italian legislation was passed in relation to a no-deal Brexit, so if the UK exits with a deal, these will need to be revisited.

Check out The Local's Brexit section for more details and updates. And if you have questions, please send them to us here and we will do our best to answer them.

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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.