On March 1st four members of the committee of the British in Italy had a meeting with Italian MP’s at the Italian Parliament (Montecitorio) to discuss the effects of Brexit, on Italians in the UK and UK Nationals in Italy. We met with a group of Partito Democratico MPs who are members of the Commissione Affari Esteri – both from the Camera and Senato, including the capogruppo of PD on the Commissione Affari Esteri, Lia Quartapelle. Some of the MPs are in fact the elected representatives of the various Italian overseas constituencies, including Europe.
The meeting was arranged through Roberto Stasi who is the PD representative in London and actively involved in Brexit matters and we arranged for a shorter version of the Alternative White Paper, translated into Italian, to be distributed to all present (the original was drafted by Jeremy Morgan of British in Italy and Jane Golding from Berlin and presented to the British parliament).
It was both a long and interesting meeting, with obvious goodwill towards our ’cause’ – the preservation of existing rights for those resident on both sides of the Channel post Brexit.
The MPs were keen to stress that reciprocity was central to any campaigning and negotiations as to the rights of Italians resident in the UK and Brits resident in Italy – just as is stressed in our statement of principles.
The issue of Italians living in the UK
Lia Quartapelle and Laura Garavini (Deputato PD nella circoscrizione Europa) also mentioned that Theresa May in her recent meeting with Paolo Gentiloni in London had said that the issue of ‘residence’ for Italians in the UK and presumably Brits in Italy would be an early priority of the Brexit negotiations.
We pointed out that the issue is not so much about ‘residence’ per se but the more complex and intertwined rights – such as right to healthcare, passporting of qualifications, right of establishment, pension rights etc.- were the important issues to be addressed.
It was clear that few if any of the MPs had any real grasp of the details or complexities of the intertwined rights that have been created by the EU (and EEA) and that will be lost on Brexit if not preserved during the coming years of negotiations. When some examples were given by us, they seemed quite surprised – but also keen for British in Italy to provide them with more information on the various aspects.
There is as yet, no formally constituted committee of Italian politicians tasked to consider Brexit issues and there will not be one until Article 50 is triggered.
Setting up a task force to deal with these issues
However, Lia Quartapelle and Laura Garavini were interested to start considering a committee tasked to take evidence from both Brits in Italy and Italians in the UK about the effects of Brexit – along the lines of the House of Commons Committee that some Brits resident in various European countries (including a member of British in Italy) gave evidence to in January this year.
They were keen to consider talks with MPs and Peers in Britain and/or to invite some to meet Italian MPs in Rome. They want British in Italy to help draw up a list of the most useful British MPs to talk to – including Conservatives and Brexiteers.
One thing they generally all seemed quite surprised about was that the British abroad are not represented in the UK parliament and there is no record of our presence abroad. The Italian Parliament has quite a number of representatives for their nationals living abroad and also they have a register of Italians living overseas. The fact that Britain does not have any of these things in place seemed quite unusual to them all.
The question of fast-tracked citizenship for Brits resident in Italy was raised but quickly rejected by the Italian MPs on the grounds that it would be a red rag to Salvini (Lega Nord) and Cinque Stelle. So no joy there – but an understandable reaction.
We weren’t able to meet Sandro Gozi, the Sottosegretario alla Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri with responsibility for European Affairs. Reading between the lines, it seems that until Article 50 is triggered he couldn’t meet anyone officially.
The Italians all seemed genuinely keen to keep in touch and we’re now working on a list of relevant/useful British MPs’ names to send to them.