March 2017

I thought you might like to know that Britons living in Italy have organised and are campaigning hard to retain the rights which we now have as EU citizens once Britain leaves the European Union. We are called British in Italy (BiI), have already over 500 members and are expanding rapidly. We are working together in a coalition with numerous other groups of Britons in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, with a total membership of around 32,000, and also with the 3million, the biggest group of EU citizens living in the UK. So far BiI has:

  • Given evidence to the House of Commons Committee for Exiting the European Union (Gareth Horsfall, financial adviser in Rome represented us)
  • Put forward an amendment to the Brexit Bill in the House of Lords and lobbied vigorously with other groups to get it passed. We did not succeed in getting our particular amendment passed, but the collective lobbying of EU and UK citizens on both sides of the Channel did result in the Lords passing an amendment to protect the rights of those who have moved to the UK.
  • Presented an Alternative White Paper laying out our demands
  • Lobbied members of the Camera dei Deputati in Rome who were very interested in our case and hoped to form a committee, or commission an existing one, to study the problems of Brexit in general and ours in particular
  • Put our case and outlined our activities to officials in the British Embassy in Rome – on the assumption that this will eventually reach the government in London which, contrary to its claims, has made little effort to find out who British living in the EU actually are and learn their problems.

We maintain that the million or so Britons living in EU countries and the three million EU citizens in the UK settled, started work and founded families on the reasonable assumption that the rights they enjoyed as EU citizens were permanent. While the stereotype “expat” is thought to be rich and idle, sipping champagne by his/her swimming pool, in reality most moved abroad to work start a business or marry, while others are pensioners who could not possibly afford to return to the UK. If these rights were denied them under Brexit it could in many cases devastate lives and careers and break up families. For at stake is not only the right of residence but also healthcare and pensions, the right to work, the recognition of professional qualifications, freedom to travel and so on. (A detailed list of our demands is attached)

We are planning to take part in the March for Europe in Rome on March 25th.

We can be found through British in Italy on Facebook and our general email address is britsinitaly@gmail.com.

Ends

For further information please contact:

Rotating spokesperson: Jeremy Morgan, QC – 3888714943: email – jeremymorganit@gmail.com

Patricia Clough 335 631 7111 email – patricia.clough@gmail.com

Executive summary 

  • British in Italy is a group of UK citizens resident in Italy concerned about the effect of Brexit on the many thousands of UK citizens in Italy and the half million or so Italians in the UK.
  • Our aim is to ensure that Brexit does not penalise these individuals, all of whom made the decision to move across the Channel in bona fide and relying on their EU right of freedom of movement.
  • UK citizens already in Italy and Italians already in the UK should therefore continue to have all the rights they had acquired or were in the process of acquiring while the UK was in the EU.  This paper sets out details of the rights in question.
  • We have already lobbied the UK government hard not to take these rights away from EU citizens in the UK.
  • We now call upon the Italian government, both as a national government and as a founding member of the EU, to ensure that in the negotiations over Brexit these rights are not taken away from expatriate citizens on either side of the Channel.

 Who we are?

 British in Italy was formed in order to protect the rights of UK citizens resident in Italy and Italian citizens resident in the UK from the consequences of Brexit.  We work very closely with similar organisations in a number of other EU countries (with membership in excess of 30,000), as well as with The 3 Million, the largest group representing EU citizens living in the UK.  Together, we have appeared before a committee of the UK Parliament, given written evidence and succeeded in getting the UK Parliament’s Upper House to consider a clause proposed by us for the Brexit Bill (the result is not known at the time of writing).

Estimates of the number of UK citizens in Italy vary from about 26,000 to 65,000.  Italians in the UK are estimated to number some 500,000.

What we are asking for

Our aims are set out in an Alternative White Paper that we issued to the UK Government when it published its Brexit Bill.  It includes the following Governing Principle:

Brexit should not have retrospective effect on individuals.  UK citizens currently resident in the EU and EU citizens currently resident in the UK should be expressly treated as continuing to have the same rights as they had before Brexit.  This is not confined to a right of continued residence but extends to all related rights such as the acquisition of citizenship, the right to continue to work, whether employed or self-employed, or run a business, recognition of qualifications, right of equal treatment, right to move between and work freely across all EU countries without loss or change of any existing EU rights, the right to healthcare, pensions,social benefits/social assistance etc. In short, the full complex of indivisible EU citizenship rights that they currently have should be guaranteed for these individuals.

Although the Alternative White Paper was addressed to the UK government, the Governing Principle applies just as much to the EU and to the 27 national governments that will remain in the EU after Brexit.  It is based on simple justice.  About 4.5 million citizens decided to move across the English Channel in good faith in reliance on their EU fundamental freedoms.  Many took their families with them or made families in their new country.  It cannot be right for all these people to have their lives turned upside down when that could easily be avoided by a mutual agreement that the status quo prior to Brexit should continue to apply to this group.

There is a clear precedent for this.  On the only previous occasion when a country left the EU (EEC), the exiting Regulation did not apply to “any rights acquired or in the process of being acquired during the period in which Greenland belonged to the ECs by nationals [of other Member States] who worked in Greenland.” (Council Regulation (EEC) 1661/1985).

Most of the issues to be decided in relation to UK citizens in the EU following Brexit will be decided at EU level, since the EU has developed common immigration, employment and social policies.  Some issues will remain to be dealt with at the level of national governments.

We therefore call upon the Italian Government, as the government of one of the founding and leading members of the EU:

  • To use its influence with the EU institutions to ensure that the EU adheres to the Governing Principle in its negotiations with the UK, and in its dealings with UK citizens in the EU27 countries and with EU citizens in the UK; and
  • As a national government:
    • to adhere to the Governing Principle in its own dealings with UK citizens in Italy; and
    • to adhere to the Governing Principle in any dealings with Italian citizens in the UK.

What does this mean in practice?

 For a detailed justification of the points which follow, we refer to the Alternative White Paper itself, a copy of which is attached.  The main issues are as follows.

Residence

  1. For UK citizens in the EU and for EU citizens in the UK at present (and for their families), the criteria for the right of residence and for obtaining permanent residence should continue to be those which apply at present pre-Brexit (ie principally those conferred by Directive 2004/38/EC). Neither the UK nor the EU27 should be able to treat any of these citizens as extra-comunitari the day after Brexit.
  2. In applying those criteria the requirement for those not working and students to have/have had comprehensive health insurance should be ignored in countries such as the UK where access to public health services is freely available.

Citizenship

  1. The criteria applied to applications for citizenship by UK citizens presently in the EU and vice-versa should be those which apply pre-Brexit. Italy, for example, should retain the present rule whereby these UK citizens can apply for Italian citizenship after 4 years residence (the period for EU citizens) not 10 (the period for extra-comunitari).

Work

  1. UK citizens already in the EU and EU citizens in the UK should continue to enjoy the EU right to work (without visas, work permits or quotas). These workers should all continue to be subject to the principle of non-discrimination, and thus enjoy equal treatment with nationals of the state in which they are residing in relation to conditions of employment, remuneration etc.
  2. Additionally all should continue to benefit from the coordination of social security under Regulation (EC) 883/2004 and equal treatment thereunder.

 Establishment of business

  1. UK citizens already in the EU and EU citizens in the UK should continue to enjoy the right of freedom of establishment of a business under Art. 49 TFEU.
  2. Equally important is the EU system of mutual recognition of professional and other qualifications, the retention of which as between UK and EU27 is essential to the exercise of freedom of establishment.

 Students

  1. A number of issues relating to students need to be addressed if the cross-Channel benefits of schemes such as the Erasmus+ are not to be lost to future generations. EU students have particularly benefited from being able to study English, the language of modern business, in its country of origin.

 Pensioners and other economically inactive people

  1. UK pensioners in the EU and EU pensioners in the UK should continue to have all the same rights as at present. In addition to rights of residence, this includes access to health care under the EU system and, in the case of UK pensioners in the EU, regular increases in the state pension to cover inflation.  These rights risk being lost unless the UK can be made to agree to continue to pay for them.  This affects not only UK citizens in the EU but EU citizens who earned their pensions working in the UK and then returned to live in their country of origin.
  2. Similar issues face other economically inactive people, such as mothers looking after children and the families of people in work. A major issue here is the continuation of the right of elderly parents to travel cross-Channel to visit and/or live with children established in another country.

 Inter-relationship of these rights

  1. None of these rights stand alone. They are inextricably linked.  For example, a right of continued residence is of no use to a professional if the qualifications he or she needs to earn an income to maintain his or her family are no longer recognised.  Nor is a right of residence meaningful for a pensioner who is no longer entitled to the state health system at an age when pre-existing conditions make it impracticable or unaffordable to arrange private health insurance.
  2. Accordingly it is essential both for EU citizens already in the UK and for UK citizens already in the EU that all these EU rights should continue for them after Brexit.