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BRITS IN ITALY

‘It’s a disaster’: How Brits in Italy are being hit by drop in value of pound

We asked our British readers to explain how the recent drop in the value of the pound will affect their lives in Italy. Here’s what they had to say.

Sterling banknotes.
The overwhelming response from Britons in Italy was that the drop in value of the pound will have a negative impact on their lives. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

The British pound experienced a record 37-year low against the dollar on September 24th, following on from a months-long fall in its value.

Though the Bank of England has managed to prevent a “material risk” to the country’s stability by buying government bonds, UK markets remain highly volatile and the slide in the value of the sterling seems to have already caused the price of goods and services in the UK to climb.

That’s in the UK, but how about Britons living in Italy? 

Last week, we asked our readers to tell us how they’ve already been affected and what they expect the ongoing impact of a weak pound will be on their lives unless the currency bounces back.  

READ ALSO: Climate zones: When can you turn your heating on Italy this winter?

We received answers to our survey from all corners of the boot, from Bolzano, Trentino Alto-Adige to Oria, Puglia. 

The overwhelming response was that the pound’s drop in value in Italy will negatively impact the lives of UK nationals in Italy.

Expectedly, most respondents pointed to unfavourable exchange rates as being the most negative consequence of the sterling’s slump, with many expressing concern about having to transfer savings from a UK account to an Italian one. 

“For the moment, it is a disaster; I can’t even think of making a transfer of pounds into euros,” said one reader living in the capital, Rome. 

Another Briton, Carol Lewis, living in Collazzone, Umbria, had similar worries. She said: “All my pensions are paid in sterling. It is making what was already a bit tight financially post-brexit even tighter.”

“Combined with increased costs generally, we are having to cut back a lot on extras and be more careful about how we spend our money.”

Pound coins and banknotes.

Following on from the pound’s drop in value, Britons in Italy are expressing concern over unfavourable exchange rates when transferring money from UK accounts. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Alison Reith, from San Salvatore Monferrato, Piedmont, also acknowledged that the pound’s weakness was putting Brits at a serious disadvantage when transferring money from overseas. 

However, she also pointed the finger at soaring living costs in Italy, admitting that it’ll be difficult to “pay for petrol, food and heating” this winter and “cuts on all costs” will sadly have to be made.  

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy prices rising in Italy this autumn? 

While sharing that expense cuts were in the cards for the cold season, many readers told us how they were trying to overcome their recent money-transferring adversities.

Julius Vloothuis, 75, living in Naples, described money transfer platform Wise, formerly known as Transferwise, as somewhat of a “saving grace” – the website allows clients to move money practically free of charge and sends out alerts when the market has favourable exchange rates.

On a similar note, Dennis, living in Rome, advised fellow countrymen to “act as an investor” and watch the exchange rates on a regular basis.

While most readers were reasonably concerned about the pound’s downswing, some responded to our survey by saying that the event would have little impact on their lives. 

Leslie Whitehouse, a retired teacher living in Bolzano, said that “unless massive, a fall in the rate of pound sterling against the euro will not affect my life”. 

Similarly, Iain Gosling, 73, told us that, having “bought a block of euros last year via [currency exchange service] TORFX”, rate fluctuations haven’t really affected his family thus far. 

Finally, some The Local Italy readers confided that they were actually quite happy with the pound dropping in value.

George Newman, 32, from Viareggio, Tuscany said: “Great, buying a house in the UK now and earning in euros. Tax cut to stamp duty too!! Winning!”

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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