“Town Hall Meeting” with H M A Jill Morris, Florence, 9 Jan 2019

Some 70 or so in St Mark’s English Church, with the Rector present, which probably put us on our best behaviour. We were also advised that the BBC would be filming part of the proceedings, but I have no information on when or if this is likely to be used.

In a brief outline, HMA summarised the progress to date, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, the outstanding issues for the next phase, and the welcome announcement from the Italian government before Christmas on our situation, even in the event of a “no deal” exit. She emphasised that her team was working very closely with the Italian Government on the ongoing issues, and also praised the work of British in Italy. From now on, the emphasis would be on these discussions, and keeping as much information as possible flowing to UK citizens resident in Italy. She emphasised the importance of getting residency status pre-29 March, if anyone has not already done so.

Other points arose from the Q and A session. Some (which I have marked below as t.b.c.) have still to be confirmed or clarified, and will form part of the content of her future newsletters.

TIMETABLE – my query on whether she could forecast the future timetable of events, given the doubts over UK Parliamentary approval for the deal and resistance to “no deal”, was met predictably with a perfectly straight bat that she was confident the deal would be approved next week.

ITALIAN GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT – she was reassuring on the strength of the Italian Government’s commitment to continue working together on this, not least bearing in mind the considerable larger number of Italians resident in the UK. The intention is to rollout these discussions to regional and commune levels, in the hope of providing a consistent script everywhere.

PERMANENT RESIDENCY STATUS IN ITALY – at present, it seems that the Italian government favours a continuation of the present arrangements, i.e. no need for a separate process such as the settled status required for EU citizens in the UK, but this will continue to be the subject of ongoing discussions with the Italian government. [ British in Italy note: the Italian government has in fact confirmed that they will be applying the WA article 18.4 declaratory procedure which does not require residents to prove all over again their right to residence in Italy (unlike ‘settled status’ etc) – see announcement dated 21 December 2018 from the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministeri on the government website]

CITIZENSHIP no decision yet from the Italian government on whether in future the qualifying residency period for citizenship applications from UK residents would continue to be 4 years, or increased to 10. In other words, the wider political context in Italy could apply. [British in Italy note: the Italian government representatives confirmed to BiI on 20th December 2018 that any citizenship application already made before 29th March 2019 would be valid as based on existing 4 year period. Whether 10 years or 4 years residence will be required thereafter is unknown]

“ONWARD MOVEMENT” the ability of UK residents in Italy to have effective freedom of movement throughout the EU as at present. This is “top of HMA’s agenda” for the next phase of discussions with the Italian government. (One audience member said his children, now resident in Italy, had passports from another EU country. What were the practical issues on staying together as a family?) tbc

VOTING RIGHTS IN THE UK FOR ALL UK CITIZENS – the strength of feeling on this issue was acknowledged, and HMA confirmed the UK government’s manifesto commitment and support for the Private Member’s Bill currently making its way (rather slowly?) through Parliament. Watch this space.

VOTING RIGHTS IN LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ITALY – it was confirmed that in principle this is supported by the Italian government, and will form part of the next phase of discussions. tbc

HEALTHCARE IN THE UK –  while our residents’ status will protect our ongoing access to healthcare in Italy, doubts were raised as to what happens on our return (short- or long- term) to the UK, since the EHIC aspect of our tessera sanitaria will no longer apply, and the NHS imposes residency requirements. tbc

UK STATE PENSION UPDATES –  the UK government is committed to continuing these. (But in the event of a “no deal” scenario?)

TRANSFER OF STATE PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS DIFFERENT EU COUNTRIES – again TBC

ADOPTION – how might Brexit affect the rights of a UK citizen resident in Italy and his Italian wife, in adopting a non-EU child? TBC

RIGHTS TO STUDY IN THE UK – would an Italian based student with a UK passport be treated for fee purposes as a “home student” by UK universities? Should be OK, but there may be some residency requirements. TBC

GAY MARRAIGE how might the UK gay marriage of UK citizens resident in Europe now be regarded in Italy? Probably more a matter for Italian law, but would be looked into. TBC

OPENING BANK ACCOUNTS IN THE UK HMA seemed surprised to learn that UK banks impose residency requirements. (There was a suggestion from the floor that TSB and NatWest may not,) Again, TBC.[British in Italy note that residency requirements for UK bank accounts fall mainly in line with the Common Reporting Standard: an OECD agreement to try deter cross border tax evasion.  Brexit is unlikely to change anything in this regard] 

All in all, the meeting afforded an opportunity to reflect on the seemingly endless implications of Brexit on the lives of ordinary people, and how much is still unclear. It is so disappointing that these aspects have not been ring fenced and sorted long before now.

CS, Lucca, 10.1.19