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BREXIT

Key victory for family rights of Britons returning to the UK from EU

Citizens rights group were celebrating on Monday after the House of Lords - the upper house of the UK parliament - voted in favour of maintaining the family reunification rights of Britons who move back to the UK from the EU.

Key victory for family rights of Britons returning to the UK from EU
Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Members of the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow Britons established in the EU before the end of the Brexit transition period to maintain the right to return to the UK with their European family members without them being subject to strict immigration rules and means tests.

Currently the law for Britons living in the EU is that they will be to bring non-British family members, including children, partners, parents and grandparents if they return to the UK before the end of March 2022.

Standard immigration rules will then apply to relatives brought in after the cut-off date meaning they would be subject to strict immigration rules, visa obligations and financial means tests.

The vote in the Lords was delayed from last week and came after hundreds of UK citizens living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland wrote to peers over recent weeks to explain what it would mean to them and their families if they were unable to return to live in the UK with our non-UK partners after March 2022.

The campaign group British in Europe reacted to the vote saying: “Peers heard our voices, took notice of our concerns, and voted to keep families together, and we are immensely thankful to them for doing so.”

However the ball is now in the hands of PM Boris Johnson's government who must decide whether to accept the amendment as part of the new law when the bill returns to the lower House of Commons.

British in Europe have long complained that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in fact locks many Britons out of the UK because they would not be able to return home with their non-British partners in the future.

Those who return to care for family members for example won't be able to reach the minimum income requirements currently in place.

“Elderly parents will not have carers, siblings will not have support and non-British parents will be separated from their British children,” British in Europe said.

“Nobody voted for British citizens to lose this right to return with our families. During the Referendum, Vote Leave and the current Prime Minister promised us that our rights would not be adversely affected by Brexit.

“But this Government’s planned changes to the immigration rules remove this most fundamental of rights. Thanks to this afternoon’s vote, the Government has another opportunity to make good on part of its pre-Brexit promises to 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EEA and Switzerland.

“We are a finite group of people asking only that our rights should not be taken away from us.

“Our amendment covers only those UK citizens in the EEA/Switzerland who fall within scope of the withdrawal agreements and who have existing non-British close family members at the end of 2020.

“Most of us will probably not leave the countries where we have made a home, but what we are asking for is the right to do so with our families if necessary. Is that too much for British citizens to ask of a British Government?”
 

 

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

EU sees trouble but no breakdown if Italy’s far right takes power

The potential emergence of a far-right government in Italy has put the European Union on alert for disruptions, with fears that unity over the war in Ukraine could be jeopardised.

EU sees trouble but no breakdown if Italy's far right takes power

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni and the League’s Matteo Salvini are slated to be the big winners in Sunday’s general election on a firmly “Italians First” agenda, in which officials in Brussels largely play the role of the bogeyman.

The biggest worries concern the economy.

Italy’s massive debt is seen as a threat to European stability if Rome turns its back on the sound financing championed by outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi, a darling of the EU political establishment.

A victory by nationalists Meloni and Salvini would follow fast on an election in Sweden where the virulently anti-migration and eurosceptic Sweden Democrats entered a ruling coalition, just months before the Scandinavian country is due to take over the EU’s rotating presidency.

READ ALSO: Giorgia Meloni’s party will likely win the elections – but will it last?

But officials in Brussels said they would not jump to conclusions about Italy, cautiously hanging on to reassurances made by key right-wing players ahead of the vote.

Giorgia Meloni delivers speech at party rally

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni (Rear C on stage) delivers a speech on September 23, 2022 in Naples. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

“This is not the first time that we risk confronting governments formed with far-right or far-left parties,” said European Commissioner Didier Reynders, a veteran of EU politics.

“Let voters choose their elected representatives. We will react to the actions of the new government and we have instruments at our disposal,” he added.

That was echoed by Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, who warned that Brussels had “tools” to deal with errant member states.

“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” she said.

Anti-immigration League leader Matteo Salvini condemned the EU chief’s comments on Friday, calling them “squalid threats”.

‘Benefit of the doubt’

Italy has huge amounts of EU money on the line. It is awaiting nearly 200 billion euros in EU cash and loans as part of the country’s massive share of the bloc’s coronavirus recovery stimulus package.

In order to secure each instalment, the government must deliver on a long list of commitments to reform and cut back spending made by previous administrations.

EXPLAINED: Is Brothers of Italy a ‘far right’ party?

“To do without the billions from the recovery plan would be suicidal,” said Sebastien Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors institute.

“We will give them the benefit of the doubt,” said an EU official, who works closely with Italy on economic issues.

and right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election.

(From L) Leader of Italian far-right Lega (League) party Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italian far-right party Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni, and Italian centre-right lawmaker Maurizio Lupi on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy’s coalition of far-right and right-wing parties. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

“We will judge them on their programme, who will be the finance minister. The names being mentioned are people that we in Brussels are familiar with,” the official added.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

However, when it comes to Russia, many fear that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will find in Italy a quick ally in his quest to water down measures against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A longtime friend of the Kremlin, Salvini has promised that he will not try to undo the EU sanctions. But many believe that his government will make the process more arduous in the coming months.

Whether the war or soaring inflation, “what we are facing in the coming months is going to be very difficult and very much test European unity”, said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive at the European Policy Centre.

The likely election result in Italy is “not going to help in making some of these hard decisions”, he added.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: What happens on election day and when do we get the results?

France’s European affairs minister, Laurence Boone, pointed to the headache of the far-right’s unpredictability.

“One day they are for the euro, one day they are not for the euro. One day they support Russia, one day they change their minds,” she told French radio.

“We have European institutions that work. We will work together. But it is true that it is worrying,” she added

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