On the 19th June 2017 the British in Italy committee met Sandro Gozi in his office in Rome. (Sandro Gozi is the Under Secretary for European Affairs in the Italian Government). We felt that the meeting went well. He was very open, honest and had a good sense of humour (when some of the group members mentioned that they had settled in Umbria, he asked: So you chose Umbria not Cumbria?) and he gave his full consent to share the content of that meeting with you. The main points of the meeting are laid out below.
Sandro Gozi seems to be one of the main political men on Brexit for Italy (subject of course to Gentiloni’s overall control). Obviously, he was not going to say otherwise, but he has met both David Davis and David Jones for Brexit discussions, and was aware of the main issues (he is a lawyer by training).
We had prepared a number of documents for the meeting, including our dossier of British citizens living in Italy. However, he did not want us to develop alot of points in our written material, as he is familiar with most of them so we just discussed the main points.
The papers he was presented with were:
(i) the joint British in Europe / 3million response to the draft EU negotiating guidelines (in English);
(ii) the joint British in Italy /3million /Together Forward current concerns document (Italian) and
(iii) the British in Italy updated file of our concerns
We opened with a very brief history of the group including some facts about the personal and work lives of members of the committee, but we emphasied that from the start of the meeting that we see ourselves and all British citizens living in Italy in the same position as Italians in the UK and to strengthen our arguments we stressed our ongoing work with the 3million in the UK and Together Forward (A lobby group of Italians in the UK) . (Interestingly, he had not heard of the work of Together Forward).
After our introduction and a brief history of the group we aimed to present our main issues starting with the importance of ring-fencing, (i.e ring fencing EU and UK citizens rights against any other negotiations related to Brexit e.g trade). We pointed out that (i) without it we would not sleep any better and (ii) we could not see why it should be linked to anything else as it was not an issue of the UK or the EU turning out the winner – each had an equal interest in protecting the rights of its own citizens and of the citizens from across the Channel.
THE POINTS RAISED
British in Italy asked whether Italy would support ring-fencing
He stated, rather unconvincingly, that it would be much simpler not to have a separate agreement.
We then asked a slightly different question, ie assume there is an early agreement on citizens’ rights without a formal ring-fencing agreement but later there is No Deal on other matters such as the divorce bill, did he think the negotiating parties would honour the citizens’ rights agreement?
He said quite firmly Yes, he thought it would be dishonourable if they did not.
We made the point that it feels like the UK government doesn’t really care about UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK.
He said No. The impression from his meetings with David Davis and David Jones was that they do.
We also said that we wanted to know how we may assist the Italian govt/parliament, for example with information relating to Brexit and individual citizens rights.
He stressed a couple of times that we should keep up the pressure in the UK, but didn’t hint at anything we could be doing, for now, in Italy.
We then pointed out that there were a number of important issues on the Negotiating Guidelines set out in our papers.
He said he thought it was important to get an agreement on the overall principle first and get on to the detail later.
Lastly, we raised the issue of the practical issues that could arise immediately on Brexit day in the event of a No Deal scenario, e.g. residency, healthcare, right to work, right to study etc.
He said that he, personally, had been very keen to get both Italy and the EU to focus on that possibility and prepare for it so that they were not taken by surprise. It seemed a point of great importance to him. He also said that he would see that our written material was provided to both the Ministero dell’Interno and the Ministero del Lavoro.
At this point, we sensed that proceedings would need to be bought to a close, so we gained a commitment to a follow up meeting and he agreed that would be a good idea once the negotiations had begun. We are now in direct contact with his assistant and will follow up as soon as negotiations are underway. We also requested that the meeting be held with the 3million (to which he replied: What!, all of them?) and Together Forward.
We think you will agree that given the points we raised, the answers he provided gave some food for thought. Our main positive from the meeting is that we have opened a line of communication with his office and as the Brexit negotiations start, and develop, we may be able to gain more insight and understanding to how matters in Italy will affect us moving forward. We will certainly keep you abreast of any further developments
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