From ‘grieving’ to ‘ecstatic’: British readers in Italy tell us how they’re feeling on Brexit day

On the last day of Britain's membership of the European Union, The Local spoke to British readers in Italy to find out how they're feeling about the event, and the future.

From 'grieving' to 'ecstatic': British readers in Italy tell us how they're feeling on Brexit day
Photo: AFP

When we asked how British people with close ties to Italy were feeling ahead of Brexit Day we got a flood of responses, but one word that came up repeatedly was “devastated.”

'Depressed', 'dismayed', and 'angry' were also used repeatedly by many readers summing up their feelings today.

At the other end of the scale, a minority of readers say they feel “delighted” about the UK's exit from the EU. For everyone, emotions were running high.

READ ALSO: How the rules for Italian citizenship change for Brits from today

“I feel devastated. Assaulted. A vital part of my identity has been forcibly removed. I also feel very concerned about the future,” says Alexandra Josephy, who has owned a home in Italy for 12 years and currently splits her time between the UK and Italy.

Jane Parkinson, who has lived in Lucca, Italy, for 11 years, says she feels “despairing, dismayed, betrayed and angry.”

“I've felt ashamed to be British at times in the last four years,” she says..

Pro-EU protestors in London. Photo: AFP

For many, the ongoing uncertainty and confusion around arrangements being made by the UK government have only added to the distress.

“None of the arrangements being made for the post-Brexit world, such as they are, take into account people who live in two countries,” Alexandra says. “I think in the future I may well not be able to continue to live as I do. But I realise that I am a fortunate person, and I'll find a way forward.”

Many others already living in Italy says it had pushed them to apply for citizenship and has strengthened their ties with their new home country.

But for 28-year-old Alex, an English language teacher living and working in Bari, there was “nothing positive about it” and Brexit is “not just embarassing for us as a country but we've thrown away our advantages.”

“I feel like I'm grieving in a way,” he says. “But the worst thing is the impact on jobs and opportunities,” he says.

“For example, us Brits had a much easier time than Australians and Americans when applying for teaching jobs in Europe. Not any more.”

“Now my Aussie colleagues are saying it's levelled the playing field, which I get,” he says, “But it is just stupid, honestly, that the UK would deprive its own citizens of that kind of advantage:”

One of the biggest worries among the readers we spoke to was future access to healthcare, and many say they feel particularly sad about losing their EU right to freedom of movement after the transition period.

“My biggest concern is the loss of freedom of movement, particularly for the young,” says Jane.

“I would like to feel still I could live anywhere in Europe: tragically this will not be possible after Brexit.”

READ ALSO: The Local's view – Most Brits in Europe didn't ask for Brexit, but now we have to make it work

As well as the immediate consequences for them personally, many readers were saddened by the bigger picture and concerned that Brexit would have a negative impact on the UK.

“I am concerned about the spread of xenophobic attitudes and the likely effects on people from other EU countries living in and enriching the UK,” says Alexandra, “I feel sad when I think of the narrow and impoverished culture in which my English grandchildren will grow up.”

Jane agrees that the UK is “a meaner, more racist and less tolerant society than before” because of Brexit.

But not everyone was downcast, with a couple of respondents saying that, despite their love for Italy, they were pleased that the UK was leaving the EU.

“I'm ecstatic and delighted that I am still alive to see the day,” says Hugh Eveleigh, who previously lived in Italy for ten years and is now in the UK debating a move back during his retirement.

“My delight in leaving the EU is based solely on having our own sovereignty and a fundamental desire to be governed democratically. All else is secondary,” he explained.

“As to free movement, when I first arrived in Italy such things did not exist but we all managed,” he says, “In the UK, we have always had a fascination for and love of la vita Italiana. This will not change.”

The future for the UK after Brexit, he hopes, “shall be positive and world-embracing.”

“It will be exciting,” he says, adding that he'll be marking the occasion at midnight “with a half bottle of champagne.

Photo: AFP

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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.